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Divided Thailand readies for advance voting

Associated Press

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BANGKOK: Anti-government demonstrators in Thailand’s capital surrounded polling stations and chained their doors shut today as the country readied for a tense day of advance voting ahead of general elections that are supposed to take place next week.

The outcome of today’s ballot is seen as a harbinger for the main vote, which the Election Commission and protesters demanding Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ouster want postponed.

The ruling party says it wants the ballot to go ahead but top officials suggested that the poll could be delayed if protests end and the main opposition party takes part. Yingluck is expected to meet the Election Commissioner to discuss that possibility on Tuesday.

Some 49 million of the country’s 64 million people are eligible to cast ballots, and 2.16 million of them applied for advance voting.

Although disruptions are likely in about 50 electoral venues in Bangkok and the opposition stronghold in southern Thailand, voting is likely to go ahead unhindered in the majority of the country. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party won the last vote in a 2011 landslide. The opposition Democrats are boycotting the poll.

Even if the Feb. 2 vote goes ahead, analysts expect that not all legislative seats would be filled. That would deny Parliament a quorum and keep it from convening, which would prevent a new government from being formed and keep the nation in crisis.


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