Thailand braces for hotly contested election [VIDEO]
Opinion polls suggest a strong win for the opposition after the Thai election Sunday. The military is unlikely to stage a coup, though it may try to use other means to thwart a PTP-led government.
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Vowed to mobilize if foul play is suspected
For their part, the red shirts have vowed to mobilize against any attempt to rig Sunday’s election in the government’s favor and made clear that they expect the PTP to govern if it wins a plurality of votes. “If we don’t have a clean election, I worry that the violence will come back,” says Toom, a red-shirt activist.Skip to next paragraph
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The ruling Democrat Party, which took power in 2008 after the court-ordered dissolution of the previous government, has tried to turn these threats to their advantage by reminding voters of the chaos unleashed by red shirt leaders, some of who are now running for parliament on the PTP’s ticket. One jailed leader, Jatuporn Prompan has been denied bail to campaign.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that he hoped for a “fair, credible, and transparent” election and urged all parties to respect the will of the people. Western diplomats in Bangkok say they have conveyed similar messages to all sides.
Speaking recently to foreign correspondents, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would accept defeat at the ballot box and defended his record as a parliamentary democrat. “I don’t see any reason why there has to be unrest. If the elections are free and fair, and the parliamentary process goes ahead, all people should accept that,” he said.
Thailand’s next parliament will have 500 seats, up from 480 at the 2007 election in which the PTP’s predecessor won 233 seats. Of the total seats, 125 will be drawn from a party list based on a national ballot, with the rest elected by districts.
While some regions lean strongly toward certain parties, Bangkok is considered a fluid battleground. In 2007, the Democrats won most seats in the capital, but polls show that the PTP has an edge in many districts. Both main parties are staging final rallies Friday night in the capital, which is festooned with party posters and other political advertisements.
“I’m confident that we can win in Bangkok,” says Korbsak Sabhavasu, campaign manager for the Democrats and a senior aide to Mr. Abhisit. He says that most voters have already made up their minds by now, and that the final tally would be close.
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