Thailand elections: Voters head to poll stations after 5 years of military rule

Bangkok: Polling began on Sunday after nearly five years of military rule in Thailand where around 51 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise, South China Morning Post reported.

In the Thai general elections, the current military-backed junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is seeking to hold on to the Prime Minister’s post, is pitted against the anti-junta parties led by loyalists to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The polls, after being postponed several times, is being held for the first time since Prayuth toppled Shinawatra’s government in 2014 and a new constitution was written by the military junta.

Meanwhile, Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party that draws support from the rural poor, has won every election since 2001, however, only to be unseated by coups.

Polling began at 8 a.m. (local time) and will end at 5 p.m. when counting begins. The results are expected to be announced on Sunday night.

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who took the throne in 2016, late on Saturday issued a statement urging the people to choose “good people” and to maintain “peace and order”.

According to The Daily Star, there are 500 parliamentary seats – 350 constituency wards and 150 party list seats – being contested by various political parties.

As many as 93,200 polling stations have been set up in 77 provinces across the country.

The 500 MPs and the 250 junta-appointed senators will each have a vote on who becomes the Prime minister.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Party, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, which is in the fray, has favoured the formation of a neutral government.

“Time’s up for dictatorship. Time’s up for corruption. It’s time for ‘democracy with integrity.’ Vote Democrat,” he said.

In February, the Thai Election Commission disqualified Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya from running for the post of the Prime Minister after King Vajiralongkorn publicly voiced his disapproval for the Princess’ foray, while labelling the move as “inappropriate.”

Upon the orders of the King, the Thai Raksa Chart party, which gave the ticket to the Princess, was later dissolved, amid rumours of a coup once again.