BANGKOK - People from all walks of life will cast their votes at over 88,500 polling stations around Thailand in Sunday's general election, the first after a military coup toppled the former elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra.
A vendor waits for customers beside campaign boards in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 22 2007. Social order remains normal in Bangkon as the general elections falling on Dec. 23 approaches. [Xinhua]
A public opinion survey released earlier has shown nearly 50 percent of the eligible voters, at about 45 million, have not decided which party to vote for.
However, eyes are mostly on the two leading runners in the race, namely, the People Power Party (PPP), seen as a nominee party for the ousted prime minister Thaksin, and the Democrat Party, the oldest political party in Thailand and major opponent to the now defunct Thai Rak Thai party, the former ruling party founded by Thaksin that dominated the Parliament in the last two elections.
Both leaders of the two rival parties -- Samak Sundaravej of the PPP and Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrats, have vowed to lead the country out of crisis, and both are confident that their own party will win.
Friday was the last day for both the PPP and the Democrats to vie for voters' support before the final battle on Sunday starts at 8 am. (0100 GMT).
At a campaign rally, the last before the polls, at Sanam Luang in central Bangkok Friday night, Chalerm Yoobamrung, deputy leader of the PPP and a candidate for party-list MP seats in Bangkok, told thousands of supporters that Thaksin told him on phone that he planned to return to Thailand on February 14 next year after the new elected government, if with the PPP leading the parliament, is formed.
On the other side, Democrat Party leader Abhisit warned people against a puppet prime minister if they voted for "a certain party."
"What if he (the new prime minister) is the puppet taking orders from someone else and can't make a decision without talking on a phone with someone. He wouldn't be responsible for his actions. Is that what we want?" the 43-year old Oxford graduate asked his supporters at another rally at a Bangkok park.
The PPP is deemed as a nominee party for Thaksin, and its current leader, the 72-year-old veteran politician Samak, has openly declared his support for the ousted prime minister.
Political analysts predict that there will most likely be no party winning a clear majority in the elections, saying Thailand will likely see a coalition government led either by the PPP or its rival the Democrat Party.
Most recent opinion polls have seen the PPP running ahead of the Democrats. PPP executives are also saying that they are confident the party could win over 240 seats in the 480-seat Parliament. Most of the pro-PPP votes are expected to come from the former Thai Rak Thai party's strongholds in the North and Northeast.
However, the PPP would have to secure about 300 seats to lead a stable government, said analysts.
Both the PPP and Thaksin, who resided in London in self-exile since the coup, have called on other parties to accept the polls result, i.e. with the PPP winning, to form a coalition party.
The Democratic Party, as well as another major party the Chat Thai Party, has rejected the idea. It remains possible that some smaller parties will take the lift.