BANGKOK, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The incumbent Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra of Thailand's opposition Democrat Party was re-elected with a record-high number of votes in Sunday's gubernatorial election.
It is the fourth win for the Democrats after nine years of running the capital city, which has been commonly regarded as the most prominent and one of the few remaining strongholds of the opposition group.
Earlier, analysts speculated that the Democrat Party, the country's oldest party headed by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, could see drastic changes in its leadership structure if its candidate fails to win for Bangkok governor election as some Democrats who seat in the parliament, including former Cabinet members, have objected to the naming of Sukhumbhand as the party's candidate and have not been active in the campaign.
The election, contested among 25 candidates, was a tight race between Sukhumbhand and Pongsapat of the ruling Pheu Thai party. Pongsapat led most opinion polls just days ahead of the election and the exit poll earlier Sunday also indicated that he had claimed victory by snatching 40.02 percent of the votes while his archrival got only 38.54 percent.
But surprisingly, in a slender victory, Sukhumbhand pocketed 1. 26 million votes, while the ruling party candidate got 1.07 million, according to the initial counting by the election coordinating center revealed later on the day.
The previous record was held by the late Samak Sundaravej who garnered 1.01 million votes in 2000 election.
As the great grandson of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), the 60- year-old Sukhumbhand was elected as the 15th governor of Bangkok in 2009, winning 45 percent of the votes.
At the Democrat Party's headquarters Sunday evening, Sukhumbhand thanked the people who helped him to get more than 1 million votes in the election and pledged to work "seamlessly with the government." The government and the opposition were blamed for the mismanagement of the 2011 flood disaster relief as they repeatedly refused to work with each other.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, speaking on behalf of the Pheu Thai Party, congratulated Sukhumbhand and conceded her party' s candidate Pongsapat was defeated.
She was accompanied by Pongsapat, party leader Jatupong Ruangsuwan and other leading members of the party. "I am also ready to work with the Bangkok governor without a dividing line," the prime minister said.
Pongsapat congratulated the governor on his re-election and wished him success over the next four years. "In whatever status I hold, I'm ready to work for the people and I want to thank all the Bangkokians who voted for me," he said.