Thai elections disrupted by protesters and marred by violence

Thailand held a controversial general election on Sunday, despite a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party. Low voter turnout calls into question the legitimacy of the election, which Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had arranged in an attempt to quell the political crisis that has gripped Thailand since protests began in November.
Posted By JC Finley  |  Updated Feb. 3, 2014 at 11:37 AM
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BANGKOK, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Thailand's controversial general elections went forward Sunday, with low voter turnout reported and protests against the election marred by violence.

According to initial Election Commission voter turn out numbers, 45 percent of eligible voters -- 20 million people -- participated in Sunday's election.

The opposition, led by the Democrat Party, urged voters to boycott the general elections, which Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called in an effort to defuse the crisis, and to occupy the streets for a "picnic." Earlier in January, protesters occupied major intersections as part of the "Bangkok Shutdown" movement. Demonstrators also blocked some polling centers on Saturday and Sunday.

In nine southern provinces, an opposition stronghold, no voting occurred.

Election Commission Chairman Supachai Somcharoen said that with voting disrupted by the opposition in 11 percent of electoral district, it is impossible to finalize the election results.

On Saturday, the eve of the elections, rival opposition factions engaged in violent clashes that injured seven.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban recommitted the opposition to peaceful demonstrations, saying Sunday, "We need to keep our principles. We fight in peace, with no weapons and violence. We only fight with our feet and whistles. ... We have the right to a peaceful protest." Continued demonstrations are planned for this week.

Anti-government protests, led by the opposition Democrat Party, have been ongoing since November 2013. Protesters are calling for the removal of the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they accuse of acting on behalf of her brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

[Bangkok Post] [BBC] [Wall Street Journal] [CNN]

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