'Fear of Thaksin, red shirts' swung Bangkok poll

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Fear tactics about the risk of Bangkok being taken over by fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts enabled the Democrat Party to win the Bangkok gubernatorial race, said Red Sunday group leader Sombat Boonngam-anong.

"It still works. Bangkokians are afraid of us," said Sombat, himself a Bangkokian. Sombat said the 1.2 million plus votes Democrat Party candidate Sukhumbhand Paribatra received was higher than the 900,000 votes he gained four years ago.

The support was likely from voters who opposed Thaksin and the red shirts but are not necessarily fans of the Democrat Party.

"They succeeded in attracting anti-red-shirt votes," Sombat told The Nation.

Pratchayaa Surakamchonrat, a song-writer and another red-shirt Bangkokian, shared a similar view and said some were moved by the negative campaigning against Thaksin and the red shirts.

He added, however, that some red-shirt Bangkokians may also have decided not to vote for Pheu Thai's candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen because they were dissatisfied with the government's handling of issues like amnesty for political prisoners - including those sentenced and imprisoned under the lese majeste law - and rewriting of the 2007 junta-sponsored constitution.

Red-shirt taxi driver Akom Poldoed, who works in Bangkok, said he also thought the negative campaign against red shirts and Thaksin was decisive. Akom said the race was tight, however, as Pongsapat managed to get more than a million votes, much higher than past pro-Thaksin candidates who had won no more than 600,000 votes.

"Bangkokians have awoken. The Democrats had to fight an uphill battle. And things will be over if another 500,000 Bangkok voters side with Pheu Thai. This may very well be the last time the Democrat Party will keep control of City Hall," he predicted.

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