Voting begins in Thai election amid opposition boycott

Voting begins in Thai election amid opposition boycott

Voting began this morning in Thailand's violence-plagued general elections amid boycott calls from the opposition, even as anti-government protesters blocked delivery of ballot papers to several polling stations.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was among the early voters, casting her ballot in front of the media at a polling station at the Klong Lamchiak School near her house here. TV channels said protesters were not present there.

More than 93,000 polling stations were set up across the country and around 120,000 police personnel have been deployed nationwide. Army has deployed 5,000 soldiers in the capital. Over 47 million voters are eligible to cast their vote.

Protesters have been holding rallies across Bangkok and have blocked major intersections for the past two months calling for Yingluck's government to quit, an unelected people's Council to be formed and the polls to be scrapped.

However, Premier Yingluck has held her ground and decided to go ahead with the election.

Voting could not proceed in 45 out of the nation's 375 constituencies because of the protesters, authorities said.

In the capital, polls could not go ahead in at least three constituencies, including in Lak Si - the scene of violent clashes between pro-and anti-government protesters yesterday which left at least seven people injured.

Two journalists - a Thai reporter and an American photojournalist - were among the injured.

In the south, a stronghold of opposition Democrat Party, protesters stopped post offices from distributing ballot papers and boxes to polling stations in 42 constituencies, said Election Commission secretary general Puchong Nutrawong.

Songkhla in southern Thailand, an opposition stronghold, will see no voting today. Its election chief Chokchai Pholwatana said that the voting in all eight constituencies in the provinces were cancelled because all polling stations have not received ballot papers and boxes in time.

Anti-government protesters have vowed to completely shut down Bangkok today.

Advance voting on January 26 was marred by blockades by opposition protesters who stopped hundreds of thousands of people from casting ballots.

The outcome of the poll is expected to be inconclusive as protesters blocked candidate registration in some districts last month hence parliament will not have enough members to convene. Speculation is rife that the army might intervene if the election leads to political limbo.

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