Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Thailand holds polls smoothly in opposition strongholds

The anti-government protesters withdrew from several stages erected at key intersections around Bangkok. (AP) The anti-government protesters withdrew from several stages erected at key intersections around Bangkok. (AP)
Press Trust of India | Bangkok | Posted: March 2, 2014 6:27 pm | Updated: March 2, 2014 7:01 pm

People on Sunday voted peacefully in five Thai provinces where opposition protests had blocked balloting during snap polls last month, the first step to complete a controversial election that could pave the way for the formation of a new government.

No violence was reported during the voting and the Election Commission said the polling was “peaceful”.

Around 120,000 people were registered to vote across over 100 constituencies in the five provinces, it said.

Reports said voter turnout was only around 10 per cent.

Violence had erupted in Bangkok and other parts of the country ahead and during the February 2 snap polls, boycotted by main opposition Democrat Party demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Opposition-backed protesters had blocked polling in several opposition stronghold provinces and in some parts of Bangkok on February 2 and during advance polling on January 26.

Thailand has been in a political crisis since mass rallies began in November. The protesters are demanding an unelected People’s Council to replace the Yingluck regime.

The protesters accuse Yingluck of acting as a proxy for her fugitive brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006. He lives in self-exile in Dubai to escape a jail term on a corruption conviction.

The poll panel was unable to announce the results of the limited polls held then as results can be announced only when polls have been held in all constituencies.

Under Thai laws, 95 per cent of the 500 seats in the lower house of parliament must be filled for a new government to be formed.

The polls came a day after demonstrators abandoned an attempted shutdown of Bangkok as part of their plans to scale down of the protests.

Earlier in the day, anti-government protesters dismantled all the rally stages at major intersections and moved to the Lumpini Park, the sprawling green lung of the Thai capital near the central business district.

Addressing the protests, rally leader and former opposition lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban said the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) would continue their struggle to overthrow the government.

However, one of the stages at an intersections near the Government House, supervised by an anti-government monk, has not been dismantled as the monk vowed to stay on.

Since November, seventy attacks against protesters have resulted in over 23 deaths and 768 injuries.

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