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Backgrounder: Thailand's 2011 election: the first since political crisis

07-01-2011 17:00 BJT

BANGKOK, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's first general election after years of political unrest is scheduled on July 3, following the King's endorsement of House dissolution which officially took effect on May 10.

The poll will be the first to pit the governing Democrat Party against the opposition Pheu Thai Party.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose coalition government came in to power in December 2008 through a parliamentary agreement rather than a fresh election after the Constitutional Court dissolved the then ruling party, hoped as he mentioned several times that the election would mark a new beginning for Thailand and move the country forward.

On top of that, he is also seeking a popular mandate or even legitimacy that critics said he has lacked since he took office.

This poll will be the second held since the military ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup in 2006 for corruption and undermining of democratic institutes. The divisive figure has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008 to avoid a two- year jail term for corruption.

People Power Party, reincarnation of Thaksin-founded Thai Rak Thai Party, won the first post-coup election in 2007, but the party was later disbanded and its executives were banned from politics by a court ruling for vote buying. Abhisit's coalition then came to power in December 2008 via a parliamentary vote.

The opposition- and Thaksin- backed United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka anti-government red-shirt movement, then took to the streets demanding the Democrat-led government to step down and call for a snap election.

The protesters caused an abrupt cancellation to the 14th Association of Southeast Asian Summit in 2009. Their violent demonstrations from March to May 2010 finally ended on May 19 when troops forcefully disperse the street protesters. The 10-week stand-off left about 91 dead, several buildings burned and the country deeply divided.

Analysts fear the poll could reignite tensions in the already politically divided society -- between the rural poor and working class supporting Thaksin and the educated middle classes.

Following the deadly crackdown, the Democrat-led government vowed to embark upon a process of national reconciliation that would bridge class, regional, and political divides that had paralyzed the country since 2006. But the hope is so slim.

The opposition Pheu Thai, the second reincarnation of Thaksin's party, plans to enact a general amnesty law to pardon everyone involved with wrongdoing after the coup. This will pave the way for the fugitive premier to return.

The Democrats strongly expressed its disagreement against its rival's proposal. The party leader Abhisit said many times that " the reconciliation is not about whitewashing people."

Abhisit said it was time for Thai people to decide whether they would move forward, backward or in circles.

ELECTION FACTS

The polls will start at 8 a.m. and close at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 3. Any campaigning activities will have to stop by 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, 2011. Besides, alcohol drinks are not allowed for sale since 6 p.m. on Saturday till 12 a.m. on Sunday.

No announcement of exit polls is allowed before 3 p.m. on the election date as it is against the election law. Unofficial results are expected at between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the voting day. However, the official outcome could be made public the next day. The Election Commission, according to law, shall endorse results within seven days if there is no complaint about electoral fraud. However, one could still file complaints about unfair election within 30 days.

Some 47.3 million eligible voters across the country will pick up 500 members of the House of Representatives, or the lower house -- 375 members from single-seat constituencies and another 125 from party-list category.

There are 375 constituencies across the country with a total of 90,860 ballot booths. About 100,000 police officers will be deployed to secure order at the polling booths across the country.

Bangkok, the capital, has the largest number of eligible voters of 4.29 million with 33 constituency seats, followed by 15 seats in the northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province.

For the constituency-based system, the candidate who gets the largest number of votes in the constituency will win the seat in that constituency. For the party-list, out of 125 seats in total, each party will get seats in proportion to the number of popular votes they win.

A total of 40 political parties field 1,410 candidates in the partly-list category and 34 parties field 2,422 constituency candidates.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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