On the evening of January 30, not long after polls closed in Lak Si and Chatuchak, the Palang Pracharath candidate Saralrasmi Jenjaka spoke to the press. Sitting next to her was her husband Sira Jenjaka, the seat’s previous holder, removed from office late last year for failing to disclose a disqualifying criminal conviction. Sira said that he hoped his wife would get more than 35,000 votes — a little over the amount he garnered in 2019.
By the time Saralrasmi took the stage again later at night, she had received less than 8,000 votes.
To paraphrase Hamlet, something is rotten in the state of Palang Pracharath. The mightiest of the ruling parties, three years out from a general election in which it won the largest number of votes, was reduced to the status of fourth place in a byelection for seat it previously held. This comes on the heels of two closer losses in the south.
It is an oft-repeated warning that byelections are an imperfect marker of the national sentiment, and an unreliable forecast of how things might play out in the next general election. But losing three in a row — particularly with such a striking decline in vote share as in Lak Si and Chatuchak, and especially after a string of government victories up to this point — seems to be indicative of at least some sort of decay. The sort of decay which, indeed, if left without arrest, could prove to be an interminable disease.
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