Thai new money set to defeat Old Etonian premier

On the street below, a woman reached up towards Abhisit Vejjajiva and held out a bag of tropical fruit. Thailand's Prime Minister pressed his palms together in a gesture of thanks and respect and quickly reached down to accept the gift.

It was the final day of campaigning ahead of Sunday's election and as Mr Abhisit made his way through the streets of Bangkok yesterday morning on the upper floor of an open-top truck, he was in no position to turn down an act of kindness from anyone.

The most recent opinion polls suggest the incumbent could be a full 10 points behind his rival and, on a damp, humid day on which the entire city felt like a steam-room, one sensed Mr Abhisit was aware he needed to try to reach out to anyone. Asked about his chances, he told The Independent: "You should ask these people. They want to move forward to get stability ... Yes we can [win]."

Mr Abhisit and his Democrat Party are battling against an opponent who is on a roll. Despite unanswered questions about his role in the crackdown on political opponents last spring that left more than 90 people dead, just a month ago when campaigning started, Mr Abhisit's Democrat party was close to level-pegging with Pheu Thai, the party controlled and financed by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Then Mr Thaksin took the decision to name his younger sister Yingluck, as the party's prime ministerial candidate. Contrary to the expectations of many observers, the 44-year-old with no political experience has somehow resonated among voters. Even her opponents acknowledge she has boosted her party's fortunes.

Mr Abhisit, who started his day on his truck then hit the streets by foot to shake hands and pose for photographs with crowds of supporters, said he was not surprised by her performance. "It's the base of the old Thaksin party," he said, sweat on his brow, as he made his way through a market place that sold clothes and electrical items. "When you get a new face, you get a bit of a bounce."

In this hard-fought campaign, it remains unclear whether any party will secure sufficient seats to win a straight majority in the parliament. As such, which party eventually emerges victorious could depend on who is best placed to form a coalition. In 2008, amid a constitutional crisis which saw two allies of Mr Thaksin were forced from the Prime Minister's office amid allegations of wrong-doing, it was the influence of the army that helped the Democrat party obtain sufficient support.

A party spokesman, Buranaj Smutharaks, said: "Our existing coalition has been in place for two-and-a-half years. It is possible we will remain there, after the election's outcome."

The difference between supporters of the Democrat party and Pheu Thai is perhaps sometimes overly simplified as the division between a conservative urban middle and upper class, and the urban and rural poor. But yesterday, as Mr Abhisit, born in the UK and educated at Eton and Oxford, made his way among the market stalls pressing the flesh, it was not hard to find a pattern.

A group of well-dressed women of a certain age, all professionals, could not get enough of the Prime inister, taking out their mobile phones to have their photographs clicked with him. One of them, Manee, said: "I think he works well. He is a good worker. He has been good so far. Two years ago there was lots of trouble. Because of the situation, they are doing the best they can under the circumstances." By contrast, the stall-holders themselves did not appear to be fans. "I am voting number one," said one man, referring to the Pheu Thai's number on the ballot list.

Mr Abhisit had little time to waste. After the market, he headed back to the Democrat party headquarters, where candles were burning alongside a shrine to the earth goddess, for a series of interviews. He then got into his black SUV for a journey across town to the studios of a television network, Channel Three, owned by a family of industrialists, and delivered what was effectively his final interview of the campaign.

Upstairs, one of Thailand's most popular news anchors, Sorayut Suthussanajinda, did his best to press the Prime Minister. He was asked to evaluate his performance in the last week of campaigning. "I don't try to evaluate myself," said Mr Abhisit. "I am looking at talking about the policies we are trying to push."

If he felt tired, he did not show it. Posing for more photographs with a small group of enthusiastic female supporters outside the television office, Mr Abhisit then climbed back into his vehicle. His aides had arranged three more campaign stops for the evening. At this stage, every moment counts.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker