CLEAR-CUT VICTORY NOT CERTAIN
It is clear that in this northeastern stronghold, Pheu Thai’s promise to win the election by a landslide is well on its way to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The party’s commitment to implementing a 10,000 baht digital wallet policy, despite facing widespread criticism, is a critical component of this winning strategy. Nevertheless, a clear-cut victory for Pheu Thai is not yet certain.
In the previous election in 2019, Pheu Thai won eight out of 10 seats in Khon Kaen, losing one seat to the Future Forward Party and one seat to the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP). The two MPs who won those seats have since defected from their parties to join the Bhumjaithai Party (BJT), a party in the ruling coalition. It is possible that Pheu Thai will once again struggle to win every seat in the province, which now has 11 seats, due to the presence of the BJT in the race.
Ekarat Changlao, who recently defected from the PPRP to BJT is running against Pheu Thai’s candidate, Mookda Pongsombat, in district 4. Ekarat is rumoured to have controlled the finances of PPRP’s northeastern candidates in the previous election.
Currently facing charges of embezzlement from Khon Kaen Teachers’ Savings Cooperative, Ekarat has developed a reputation for fighting political battles with money. With the BJT’s backing, Ekarat and his son, Wattana, an MP who also defected from the PPRP to run as a BJT candidate in district 2, are expected to put up a tough fight against Pheu Thai.
According to the leader of one of Pheu Thai’s campaign teams, Pheu Thai’s candidates have the upper hand over the BJT’s candidates because voters in Khon Kaen are traditionally inclined to support Pheu Thai on the basis of its party brand.
However, Pheu Thai’s candidates do not receive the same level of financial support as BJT’s candidates, nor do they receive this support in a timely manner. Both parties conduct internal polls to determine how much support to give each candidate on a rolling basis, but only the BJT is willing to go the extra mile. If the BJT injects its networks of local leaders and village-based health volunteers with cash in the final stretch of the campaign, Pheu Thai risks losing ground, at least on the constituency ballot.