General News - Tuesday December 18, 2007
RACE TO PARLIAMENT
'Bam' banks on last-minute swing
Janista Liewchalermwong, a former Bangkok MP and Chart Thai party candidate, is pinning her hopes on a last-minute swing in her favour by as yet uncommitted voters in Don Muang.
Ms Janista, better known as ''Bam'', is one of Chart Thai's most popular politicians in Bangkok.
However, she faces a fierce challenger from the People Power party (PPP) in Sunday's election.
She won a seat in 2005 following the disqualification of Karun Hosakul, who was then a candidate for the disbanded Thai Rak Thai party.
Mr Karun was disqualified after it was found that his bachelor's degree had been revoked by Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.
A bachelor's degree is no longer a requirement under the 2007 Constitution. As a result, Mr Karun, who has a strong base in Don Muang district, has returned to the race under the banner of the PPP, the reincarnation of Thai Rak Thai.
Mr Karun and the other two PPP candidates, Capt Anudit Nakhonthap and Anusorn Punthong, are seen by political observers as potential MPs in Bangkok's constituency 5 covering Don Muang, Sai Mai and Bang Khen districts, where Ms Janista is also running.
Mr Karun's stronghold is Don Muang, Capt Anudit is popular in Sai Mai, and Mr Aunsorn's support base is Bang Khen.
Ms Janista has been campaigning hard in Don Muang, the constituency where she won a seat.
She is trying to cover every inch of Don Muang district, but has left Sai Mai and Bang Khen districts to her fellow candidates, Chamadol Hongsakula and Thitichoke Karnjanapakdi, who are hoping of causing an upset.
Ms Janista said she was pinning her hopes on Don Muang district.
''It's too difficult to fight other parties in terms of organised votes, but I strongly believe as-yet-undecided voters will help me win a seat,'' said Ms Janista.
She is using the same campaign tactics she used in the previous election, and has invited her younger sister Chayada ''Bo'', a television actress, to help her campaign.
Mr Karun does not see Ms Janista as a serious threat.
''I have never feared her because she is not my rival. She is competing with herself. I'm competing with the Democrat candidates. However, I think the local people will choose me and my party,'' said Mr Karun.
But he admits the same local people have not forgotten the bachelor's degree scandal.
''It was a political tactic of the time,'' said Mr Karun, by way of explanation.
For the Democrats, its three candidates in this constituency are all new faces. They are Kongsak Yodmani, son of Tourism and Sports Minister Suvit Yodmani, Pitak Thanbancha and Vitrayen Muttramara.
Mr Kongsak conceded that his team is at a disadvantage to PPP candidates and Ms Janista because they are not so well-known locally.
But they are keeping their fingers crossed that their party's policies and development plans for these areas will convince enough voters to give the Democrats a good chance.
''We have no voter base in this area. If we want to fight against the old candidates, we have to work harder,'' said Mr Kongsak.
The party is also counting on the popularity of its leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, as many voters are expected to plump for the party rather than the individual candidate.