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Thai Election Officials: Preparations Complete for Sunday Snap Election


Election officials in Thailand say they are ready for Sunday's snap elections, which Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra is calling a referendum on his five year-old government. But analysts say the vote might not solve the country's political crisis.

Thai officials said Saturday that preparations for Sunday's election were 100 percent complete. Earlier, they rejected a last-minute petition by the opposition to suspend the vote because of allegations of fraud.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Saturday urged citizens to respect the results, saying that afterwards, he would consider all his critics' demands.

Those critics have been staging rallies in the capital for the past several weeks, at times drawing tens of thousands of people into the streets to call for Mr. Thaksin's resignation.

Having failed to force him from office, the opposition is now boycotting the vote. The head of the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, says a fair election cannot be held under the current government.

"There have been allegations, accusations already, about so much fraud, and also violations of election law. So we'll be watching the Electoral Commission closely," he said.

Mr. Thaksin called the vote three years early after the calls for him to resign, because of alleged corruption and abuse of power, continued to grow.

The prime minister's Thai Rak Thai party enjoys strong support among rural people and the poor. But the urban middle class and civic groups were roused by his family's tax-free sale in January of nearly two billion dollars worth of stock in the company he founded.

Chulalongkorn University Professor Thitinan Pongsuthirak says Sunday's election is not likely to end the political crisis.

"The Thai Rak Thai party is running uncontested, so it's going to win by a landslide, basically," said Professor Thitinan Pongsuthirak. "But it does not have any electoral legitimacy, because there is no competition. So the problem will be after the election. We will have a lot of reruns and a lot of confusion and controversy."

Experts say the boycott means that candidates in some districts may not receive the minimum 20 percent of eligible votes needed to win. As a result, the opening of the new parliament and the election of a new government could be delayed for some time.

The standoff has already caused tensions. In recent days, there have been several angry confrontations between supporters of the two sides.

No one has been injured and authorities have praised the maturity of the electorate. But there are fears that a prolonged stalemate could affect the economy and lead to social unrest.

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