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Thai vote goes smoothly; protesters regrouping

By Agencies in Bangkok | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-03 08:27

Unlike in earlier polling, no reports of violence as rerun elections begin

Thailand held rerun elections in five provinces on Sunday, moving forward a national election process that was disrupted by anti-government protesters last month.

The elections, which will either confirm Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in power or unseat her, will not be completed until the last of the provincial polls are held, possibly in April.

Yingluck's government said that the first round of voting gave them victory, but the overall results cannot be confirmed until all polls are finished.

There were no reports of violence during Sunday's vote, an improvement on the original Feb 2 general election, which was marred by gunfire as anti-government elements sought to disrupt voting.

Demonstrators seeking to unseat Yingluck decamped from a main Bangkok intersection on Sunday and moved to a park in the city center, in an apparent sign of de-escalation.

The anti-government protesters gathered in central Lumpini Park, where hundreds already sleep in tents alongside boating lakes and under trees, after protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said they would abandon other sites in the city.

Anti-government posters saying "Get out!" and "Stop cheating farmers!" - a reference to a failed rice subsidy plan - blew in the dust past abandoned Suthep cutouts. Beyond the park boundary, traffic began to ease its way through the intersection on the edge of the Silom financial district.

Site dismantled

Another protest site was dismantled, with stages, huge screens, giant speakers and amplifiers, tents, stalls and mobile toilets cleared away overnight. However, the elevated highway along the south side of Lumpini Park was still blocked by tires and sandbags.

Voting was disrupted on Feb 2 in 18 percent of constituencies, 69 out of 375, nationwide, the Election Commission said, affecting 18 of 77 provinces.

Election reruns planned for April in other provinces have been suspended pending a court decision on procedures.

A total of around 120,000 people were registered in 101 constituencies across five provinces for Sunday's vote.

Election Commission secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said voting had gone ahead peacefully. About 20 protesters blew whistles at a polling station in Petchburi province, southwest of the capital, but did nothing to block voting.

"They came to show symbolic protest and they have already gone," he said, not giving details of voter turnout. "Generally, polls are running smoothly."

The demonstrators, who have blocked intersections in the capital for weeks, say Yingluck must resign and make way for an appointed "people's council" to overhaul a political system they say has been taken hostage by her billionaire brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra.

The election is almost certain to return Yingluck to power, thanks to her support base in the largely rural north and northeast, a result the opposition will never accept.

Suthep, who has proposed talks with Yingluck, did not mention the voting in an address at the new stage at Lumpini, but said he was confident the government will want to negotiate while he continues to attack businesses of the Shinawatra family, a tactic introduced last month.


 Thai vote goes smoothly; protesters regrouping

Thai people search for their names in the voting list before casting their vote at a polling station as part of a rerun of general elections in Taa Ta Kho village in Petchaburi province, south of Bangkok, on Sunday. Manjunath Kiran / Agence France-presse

(China Daily 03/03/2014 page12)

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