Gimmicks won't decide governor's poll, academics say

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Gimmicks have been spicing up the Bangkok governor election campaigns, but they will not be the decisive factor for a candidate to win the race, academics say.

Suharit Siamwalla, an independent candidate, is gimmick-savvy but all surveys have found he still lags far behind contenders from big parties like Pheu Thai or the Democrats.

"Candidates need a solid political support base to win the gubernatorial race," said Parichart Sthapitanonda, a lecturer at the Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Communication Arts.

Suharit has already unveiled many gimmicks. For example, he has encouraged city residents to post photos of "hand signs of No 17" on his Facebook page. He is candidate No 17 in the gubernatorial race. His page has already got more than 60,000 likes.

Parichart commented that such gimmicks would largely appeal to younger-generation voters.

Democrat candidate MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra and Pheu Thai contender Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen have relied more on door-to-door campaigning in their bid to woo the majority of voters.

Thanthakarn Duangratana, dean of Dhurakij Pundit University's Communication Arts Faculty, said for top contenders the use of gimmicks or social media would boost their chance to win. As for less well-known candidates, he said it gave them the chance to build a fan following and put them in a better position to run for political posts later on.

According to SocialBakers, Bangkok residents use more than 12 million Facebook accounts. Therefore, if any political candidates have solid Facebook fans, they may be able to attract a lot of votes.

Thanthakarn encouraged political candidates to interact with their supporters online themselves, rather than relying on their team. He said social-media users would feel connected to the candidates only if they thought they knew the real candidates - not their team.

"Look at US President Barack Obama. He posted messages and updates on Facebook himself when he ran for the second term," Thanthakarn said.

Rungrat Chaisamrej, who teaches at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce's Faculty of Communication Arts, said the candidates in the Bangkok-governor race had used social media more than ever before.

However, she said the majority of social-media users in the capital were from the younger generation and some social-media addicts might not go to polling stations at all.

She, therefore, concluded that door-to-door campaigning would remain the crucial factor.

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