Sukhumband Paribatra of the Democrat Party is the current governor of Bangkok, and has held the position since 2009.
Sukhumband has had a number of successes, including the extension of the BTS Skytrain and the development of a state-run hospital. However, his challenges included the difficulty of working with the ruling Pheu Thai government. This was particularly evident during the 2011 floods, in which two separate administrations differed over how to handle the flood water.
Why is he in the news?
Sukhumband won re-election on March 3, following an intense neck and neck campaign against Pheu Thai candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen. Sukhumband’s win indicates that politics in Bangkok are still sharply divided. Sukhumband received 46 percent of the vote, while Pongsapat got 40 percent. Despite widespread rainstorms, the turnout for the election was a record-breaking 64 percent of eligible voters, and the margin of victory was the narrowest in Bangkok’s history.
A victory for Pongsapat could have created a united government for Bangkok and the central government under the Pheu Thai party. It is difficult to assess whether Sukhumband’s win is due to his own policies, or the result of the continuing national political divide between the country’s two main parties. In either case, Sukhumband’s victory could force Democrats to pursue a more cooperative political approach, and compel the Pheu Thai government to avoid a controversial agenda.
What can we expect from him?
Sukhumband promised a number of reforms during his campaign, with particular emphasis on improvements to Bangkok’s overextended transportation infrastructure, but achieving this will require increased collaboration between the Democrats and Pheu Thai. This was the first governor’s election since the 2010 violent protests that rocked Bangkok, and indicates that Thailand’s capital remains a Democrat stronghold, despite the popularity of the rival Pheu Thai Party in much of the rest of the country.