February 02, 2014
Thailand Elections End Amid Protests
Opposition protesters in Thailand forced the closure of hundreds of polling stations across the country, threatening the outcome of the vote meant to quell months of unrest.
The main opposition Democrat Party boycotted Sunday's elections, and protesters obstructed voting by blocking the distribution of ballots and preventing voters from entering polling stations in several constituencies.
Results from the vote are not expected for weeks with the winning party will be unable to form a new government until polls are held in the disrupted districts.
Despite the uncertainty of the poll, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said holding the vote was right way to resolve the political unrest in the country.
"At least I think at this election it is very important that people come out to vote for their right to democracy. So I think it is important that people would still like to see the election because the election is the right way under the democratic process."
Protests and violence erupted three months ago when the prime minister sought to grant amnesty to her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Mr. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, remains very influential in Thailand, even though he was convicted of corruption and lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai.
Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite are opposed to the amnesty and have responded to its proposal with calls to oust the government.
Protesters say the vote should not have been held before widespread reforms took place, while Prime Minister Yingluck insisted the election was the only legitimate way to end the political stalemate.
The election commission had called for the vote to be delayed, citing fears of violence that has killed at least 10 people since November.
The Thai army increased its presence in the capital to prevent further unrest during the elections and a state of emergency has already been declared.
The military, which has staged 18 coups in the past 81 years, has said it will not interfere in the political situation unless absolutely necessary.