Page last updated at 00:39 GMT, Sunday, 5 October 2008 01:39 UK

Bangkok set for mayoral elections

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Mayoral candidate Chuwit Kamolvisit campaigns in Bangkok (Sept 2008)
Chuwit Kamolvisit has said he will clean up Bangkok

The residents of Bangkok are being offered a distraction from the political turmoil that has disrupted the capital over the past two months.

It comes in the form of an election for the city's mayor.

Bangkok is one of only two cities in Thailand that is allowed to elect its own mayor.

Although the position carries limited power, the contest has attracted a colourful array of candidates - 16 people have come forward.

It is a job you would think no-one would want.

Bangkok is plagued by chronic traffic, air pollution, seasonal floods and uncontrolled development.

And the post of governor carries very few powers - most of its funds are controlled by the central government.

Yet 16 candidates have come forward to contest the election.

Placard hazard

Bangkok mayor Apirak Kosayodhin (file image)
Apirak Kosayodhin is known as a competent administrator

Incumbent Apirak Kosayodhin is the front-runner - a calm, telegenic candidate for the opposition Democrat party.

His achievements over the past four years do not amount to much, but he does enjoy a reputation as a reasonably clean and competent administrator.

His opposite in temperament is Chuwit Kamolvisit, a former massage parlour tycoon, running for the second time.

He projects an image as a tough guy, a straight-talker, ready to clean up politics, which he reckons is even dirtier than his old business - an image he lived up to when he punched out a television interviewer for asking what he deemed impolite questions.

There is an idealistic professor, calling himself Dr Dan, promising 300 new policies, including the Sisyphean task of ridding the city of its rats and cockroaches.

Then there is Leena Jang, a gaudily made-up businesswoman whose prospects wilted a bit after her campaign manager drowned in a Bangkok canal while trying to demonstrate its unsuitability for swimming.

Campaigning has involved sending out trucks blaring Thai pop songs from loudspeakers, and erecting huge placards along the pavements.

These have made walking in Bangkok quite hazardous - several pedestrians and motorbike riders have been injured by falling posters.

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