Pattaya voters will go to the polls for the first time in more than nine years Nov. 28 to elect a new mayor and rebuild a collapsed city council.
Interior Ministry and Election Commission officials met Aug. 31 to set the tentative date for elections for the cities of Pattaya and Bangkok as well as subdistrict municipalities across the country. The ministry proposed Sunday, Nov. 28 for the polls, but the measure must be confirmed by the Cabinet and then the Election Commission.
The last time Pattaya voters got to exercise their democratic rights to city leaders was July 2012, when they returned Itthiphol Kunplome to the mayor’s chair and 24 council members from his Palang Chon slate.
A lot has changed since then, starting with the military coup in May 2014. The elected officials remained in power until their terms ended at the end of June 2016.
After that, the junta put then permanent secretary Chanapong Sriviset in charge until 2018 when Itthiphol’s older brother Sonthaya was named mayor by junta leader and now Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Sonthaya had been leading Prayut’s 2019 election team for Chonburi.
The city council, meanwhile, has not changed as much as it has disintegrated. Only three of the 12 council members named by the junta in 2016 remain in office and all are “lame ducks,” unable to hold meetings or pass any legislation or budgets.
Three years of attrition had left the city council with only six members when the panel met Aug. 12. After an intense and acrimonious debate over a proposal to spend 200 million baht on new closed-circuit television cameras, half the six resigned in protest.
Unable to form a quorum, the council collapsed. But council Chairman Anan Angkanawisan – who was accused of inappropriate legislative action by the resigning members – and councilmen Thanet Supornsahatrangsi and Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn decided to stay on as caretakers and oversee ongoing projects.
The Cabinet will take up the Interior Ministry’s electoral recommendations at its Sept. 7 meeting. The EC then will set constituency district boundaries and fix the number of members on the new Pattaya council. It’s unknown whether it will expand to the previous 24 seats or stick with the junta-curtailed 12.
Like Pattaya, Bangkok will hold its first elections since March 2013, with voters finally getting a chance to oust junta-appointed Aswin Kwanmuang, who has headed the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration since 2016 when Prayut removed democratically elected Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who opposed the coup and often clashed with the prickly premier. Aswin was an appointed deputy governor under Sukhumbhand.
Officials at the meeting, which included representatives of the Department of Local Administration and Budget Bureau, also pondered how to handle the local elections should the coronavirus outbreak flare again. They noted that district elections were already held during the pandemic, so there is an established system to cast votes safely.