Thailand votes in 1st elections after 2014 coup

IANS | March 24, 2019 02:13 PM

BANGKOK: Thailand went to the polls on Sunday to vote in the first general elections after incumbent Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha came to power following a bloodless coup in 2014.

About 50 million people, including 7 million young Thais who will be participating in their first ever election, are eligible to cast their ballots to elect 500 members of the House of Representatives, the lower house, for a four-year term, reports Efe news.

All 750 representatives from the two houses will vote together to elect the next Prime Minister.

Around 90,000 polling stations across the country opened at 8 a.m., and will close at 5 p.m.

The Election Commission announced that preliminary results will start coming in from 9 p.m. onwards.

Sunday will be the first time Thais have the chance to vote since Prayuth overthrew the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Both are living in self-imposed exile after being found guilty in absentia of corruption and sentenced to five year prison terms.

The elections are also the first since a new constitution, enacted following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016, banned large parties and ensured that the military oversees a 20-year national strategy plan, regardless of which party wins the polls.

The constitution, approved with the promise of providing stability to the country and preventing a potential stalemate in parliament, gives the military establishment powers to nominate all 250 members of the senate (the upper house) for a five-year term.

In a message released on Saturday night, King Vajiralongkorn made an appeal to Thai citizens to vote for the "good people" to govern the country and prevent "bad" ones from creating problems.

"Maintaining national peace and order is not about making everyone good but supporting the good people to govern the country and preventing the bad people so that they can have no power nor cause problems," the King said.

Meanwhile, no international observer mission has been authorised for monitoring the elections, but the European Union said it had accredited its diplomats to study the process for its own internal report.

Pre-election surveys have indicated that the Shinawatra-backed Pueu Thai party, which was overthrown in 2014, will secure most of the votes on Sunday, while pro-military parties, such as Prayut's Palang Pracharat, are not expected to fare well.

The Democrat Party, the country's oldest, which is popular among the middle classes and in the south, as well as the newly-formed Anakot Mai (Future Forward), which is hugely popular among younger voters, are also expected to win significant numbers of seats in parliament.

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