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Thai Protesters Fail to Block Election Registration

Thousands of anti-government protesters determined to unseat Thailand's prime minister surrounded a Bangkok sports stadium Monday in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent political parties from registering for a February 2 election.

The main opposition Democrat Party said Saturday it will boycott the vote, which Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's ruling party would likely win.

Officials from her party and eight others managed to sign up for the election by slipping into the stadium before dawn. Several dozen other party leaders and supporters who were turned away by protesters retreated to a nearby police station where they were allowed to register.

Prime Minister Yingluck dissolved parliament on December 9 and called the snap election to try to end sometimes violent anti-government street protests.

Protesters say the prime minister's removal is necessary to purge the country of corruption and money politics. They view Yingluck as a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and living in self-imposed exile overseas after being convicted of corruption.

Prime Minister Yingluck says after the election, a national reform council will be set up to work towards widespread reforms, but protesters say they want reforms before polling begins.

The Shinawatras have the support of Thailand's rural poor, largely because of Thaksin's policies to bring virtually free health care, cheap loans and other benefits to the long-neglected countryside. But they are disliked by the urban middle class and educated elite.

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