The voters in Sakon Nakhon have overwhelmingly chosen to elect an MP who will sit on the opposition side of parliament. The by-election in Sakon Nakhon (3) was bought about when one of the sitting Pheua Thai members, Pongsak Boonsol, was disqualified for alleged electoral misconduct. The by-election, held yesterday, was a contest between Pongsak’s wife, Anurak Boonsol and the Bhum Jai Thai party’s Pitak Chansri. The result was a landslide to Pheua Thai. Matichon Online has an unofficial count from 11 PM last night with 83,312 votes to Pheua Thai and 47,198 to Bhum Jai Thai. That’s about 63 percent of the vote to Pheua Thai (in a two horse race) compared with about 43 percent in the 2007 election (with a much larger field).
The Thaksin clan had a high profile in the campaign and Thaksin himself is said to have called district and village heads to urge them to support Pheua Thai. The Thaksin brand is clearly not as soiled as many have suggested.
Bhum Jai Thai attempted, unsuccessfully, to out-populist Thaksin:
BJT [Bhum Jai Thai], which consists mainly of politicians from what was once Thaksin’s vote base-the Northeast-is working to implement a new set of populist policies, and as it turns out, the new policies seem to be more far-reaching, palpable and penetrating than what Thaksin sowed. The seminar or ‘‘reality show” staged by BJT inTambon Ban Nongphai-Nadee in Sakhon Nakhon province early this month was also more grand, with more politicians and villagers taking part, than a similar show Thaksin managed in Roi Et province in 2006.Directed by Newin Chidchob, the party’s banned leader, the show also appeared much more ‘‘real”. The party’s MPs went to live, eat, plough rice fields and sleep with the villagers. It marks the first time that key ministers mixed so intimately with villagers in order to learn about their needs and their local wisdom. After three days and two nights, populist policies based on the what the MPs learned first-hand from the villagers were drafted.
For starters, BJT’s ‘‘one village, one sports ground” project and the ‘‘one sanitarium, one ambulance and one medical team” project aim to promote good health in an integrated manner. The ‘‘one TAO (Tambon Administration Organisation), one rice bank and one rice mill” project is a solution to the problem where middle men push down the prices of the rice they buy from farmers. The ‘‘dust-free road” project will be expanded to cover all provinces. Apart from these schemes, there are the ‘‘one village, one irrigation system” project and the ‘‘carbon-credit” project aimed at reducing pollution while making money from the efforts. All these projects are collectively called Nongphai-Nadee Folk Wisdom after the locations where the policies originated. BJT plans to hold a similar seminar in either Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think “folk wisdom” (phum panyaa, I presume) is going to be much of a vote winner in 21st century Thailand.