Thais head to the polls for snap election

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Sunday, April 2, 2006

The national flag of Thailand

Today sees the snap election for the lower house of Thailand's parliament. With only one of the parties with seats contesting the election it is seen more as an attempt by current caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to shore up his position in the face of mass protests and accusations of malfeasance.

Thailand 2006 Party ballot, the box at the bottom right can be marked with an 'x' to indicate an abstention

The snap election was called on February 24 by the beleaguered PM, approximately one year after the previous election where his Thai Rak Thai party took 377 of the 500 seats in the lower house making it the first party to have been able to form a government without entering into a coalition.

With the main opposition parties, Democat Party (Pak Prachatipat), Great People's Party (Phak Mahachon), and Thai Nation Party (Phak Chaat Thai) boycotting the election the results may not carry the legitimacy that Thaksin is seeking. Along with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the main opposition parties have called upon voters to mark their ballot as an abstention. With over 150 Changwats (constituencies) having a single Thai Rak Thai candidate on the ballot, some may not reach the required 20% of the eligble votes to be returned. This would leave the parliament short of its 500 seat requirement and unable to reconvene and ratify the appointment of a Prime Minister.

Allegations of corruption centre on the Prime Minister's family's involvement in the sale of Shin Corp. to Temasek Holdings, described by Wikipedia as the investment arm of the Singapore government. On January 23, the PM's family sold their 49.6% share in the company tax-free for US$1.88 billion. Whilst protests and allegations had been made prior to the sale, it was a catalyst that provoked mass rallies in Bangkok demanding the PM's resignation.

With polls opening at 8 a.m. local time (0100 UTC), the BBC reports that voting has been steady and that the PM and his children voted a couple of hours after the polls opened. Some have used the poll as an opportunity to protest, with one university lecturer arrested for completing his ballot paper in blood.

Polling closed at 3 p.m. local time (0800 UTC) with unofficial results expected later in the day.

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