70% vote expected in Thai polls: panel

Published: Tuesday, 4 December, 2007, 07:36 AM Doha Time

BANGKOK: More than 70% of Thailand’s 40.8mn eligible voters are expected to cast ballots in general elections this month, an anti-fraud election panel said yesterday.
Thais will elect a new government on December 23 to replace the army-backed administration installed after the military toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup last year.

About 71% of voters are expected to cast ballots, said the panel’s spokesman Chaiya Yimwilai, adding that more than 2mn people have registered for absentee ballots.
The coup leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, heads the panel tasked with preventing vote fraud during the polls.

Analysts question how free and fair the elections can be when about one-third of the country is still under martial law and Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party, which stormed the polls in 2001 and 2005, has been dissolved.

Most of the areas under martial law are in rural parts of northern Thailand, where Thaksin enjoyed strong support.“Some military officers are treating the parties differently, and that makes the competition unfair among candidates,” the source said.




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