Asia

Thai elections: Polls close in general poll

Protest in Bangkok (2 March 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protesters marched through central Bangkok on Sunday but there were no reports of disruptions

Voting has ended in five provinces in Thailand that were unable to hold polls in last month's general election because of anti-government protests.

No disturbances were reported in Sunday's ballot, but correspondents say voter turnout was only around 10%.

Polls also stayed closed in many areas affected by February's rallies, with the election commission saying the situation there remained too tense.

Thailand has been in a political crisis since mass rallies began in November.

Protesters are calling for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign, and want her government to be replaced by an unelected "people's council" to reform the political system.

The opposition alleges that money politics have corrupted Thailand's democracy and that Ms Yingluck is controlled by her brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-imposed exile.

Signs of flexibility

Protesters marched through the capital, Bangkok, on Sunday, but there were no signs of voters being prevented from attending polling stations, as had been the case in early February.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption City cleaners get to work after anti-government protests left some protest sites around the capital

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Bangkok, says the low voter turnout can be partially explained through poor publicity.

But there has also been little interest in these elections because people do not believe they will end the political paralysis, our correspondent reports.

The ballot will still leave too many parliamentary seats unfilled for a new government to be elected.

PM Yingluck is therefore stuck in a caretaker role, giving her cabinet very limited powers to govern, our correspondent says.

On Friday, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced that demonstrators would end their occupation of central Bangkok in what was seen as a first sign of flexibility from the prime minister's opponents.

Talks are also planned next week between representatives from both sides.

Ms Yingluck leads a government that won elections in 2011 with broad support from rural areas. In response to the protests, she called snap elections on 2 February, which her government was widely expected to win.

However, the polls were boycotted by the opposition, and voting was disrupted by protesters at around 10% of polling stations.

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