Thailand votes amid boycott, protests (Roundup)

Bangkok, Feb 2: Voting ended in Thailand’s general elections Sunday amid protests and opposition boycott aimed at preventing re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Polling, which began at 8 a.m., ended at 3 p.m. The ballot counting began immediately thereafter at counting centres.

Voting went ahead in 89 percent of the 93,952 polling stations across the country, the Bangkok Post reported citing the Election Commission.

The vote count will be sent to the Election Commission and results will be released only after the by-elections for advance voting and blocked polling stations.

The by-elections are scheduled to be held Feb 23.

Some six million registered voters were affected by the closures, the Election Commission said, BBC reported.

Protests prevented voting from taking place in 438 of Bangkok’s 6,671 polling stations, and there was no voting at all in nine southern provinces, the report added.

The government said there was no disruption in the north and north-east of the country.

Yingluck voted soon after polls opened near her Bangkok residence.

Earlier, anti-government protesters said they would disrupt the voting process and continued their campaign against Yingluck Shinawatra.

The prime minister, who won the last election in 2011, called for the elections to head off mass protests that began in November, 2013.

People, including opposition leaders, took to the streets after her government tried to pass an amnesty law that would potentially have allowed her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, to return from exile.

Thaksin, a former prime minister who fled during a court case in 2008, is reviled by the protestors, who say he controls the government from abroad.

On Jan 26, protestors blocked many polling stations and disrupted advance voting held for migrants and students, who were unable to return for the Feb 2 elections.