Third of Thais vote 'none of the above'

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Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Thailand 2006 Party ballot. The box at the bottom right can be marked with an 'X' to register 'no vote'.

According to unofficial estimates by the Thai News Agency (TNA), 10 million voters chose the "none of the above" option in Sunday's election. These estimates put the party-list vote for incumbent Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party at 16 million. (Thai Rak Thai means, literally, "Thais Love Thais" [1].) Shinawatra cited a total vote of 28 million, compared to 32 million in the previous general election.

Reporting the PM's appearance on national television, TNA quoted him as saying he might resign to achieve better national unity. "I'm ready to have a break in politics if ...". His offer is conditional on the return by major players in the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to their prior roles, and on the participation of opposition parties in the next general election.

Choosing to emphasise Thaksin's claim of victory, an article in the Thai publication The Nation, written in the English language, included passages portraying the PM less favourably. "Tell me how the country would be better off without me", Thaksin challenged at a party meeting. "The 16 million should be told how the country will be reconciled if I step down."

Sunday's poll passed fairly peacefully, although three bomb blasts injuring six persons were reported in Narathiwat, one of the southern provinces where Malay separatist tensions have seen over 1,000 killed since January 2004.

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