Thailand election disrupted by protests

Bangkok. Protests have disrupted Thailand’s general election, halting voting in parts of Bangkok and the south, but officials say that 89% of polling stations operated normally.

Bangkok. Protests have disrupted Thailand’s general election, halting voting in parts of Bangkok and the south, but officials say that 89% of polling stations operated normally.

Some six million registered voters were affected by the closures, the Election Commission said.

PM Yingluck Shinawatra called the vote to head off weeks of mass protests.

Her party is widely expected to win but legal challenges and a lack of a quorum of MPs may create a political limbo. Security has been heavy throughout Thailand, with vast areas under a state of emergency.

“The situation overall is calm and we haven’t received any reports of violence this morning,” National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabutr told Reuters.

Security officials said about 130,000 personnel had been deployed across Thailand on Sunday, including 12,000 in Bangkok.

There has been little campaigning for the election and it was unclear how many Thais had turned out.

Ms Yingluck, who won the last election in 2011, voted soon after polls opened near her Bangkok home.

She told the BBC it was important that people came out to vote to exercise their democratic right.

But protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said the government would be unable to declare a result because of the closures, adding: “Therefore the election is a waste of time and money.”

Protests prevented voting from taking place in 438 of Bangkok’s 6,671 polling stations, and there was no voting at all in nine southern provinces.

The government said there was no disruption in the north and north-east of the country.

Ms Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party has overwhelming support in these regions, while the south and parts of the capital are strongholds of the opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the election. Demonstrators blocked access to voters at some polling stations in the capital and prevented ballot papers reaching those polling stations.

 

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