LAHORE MIRROR (Monitoring Desk)– Military-backed party is taking lead in Thailand’s national elections today, initial results from the Election Commission show.
The country is witnessing first elections since a military coup in 2014.
With about 90 percent of ballots in Sunday’s long-delayed polls counted, the Palang Pracharat party had seven million votes. Pheu Thai, the party linked to the former Prime Minister and exiled tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, had 6.6 million.
Future Forward, a newly founded party that campaigned on a promise of change and military reform, was third, with nearly 4.8 million votes.
The commission said it would announce the final results on Monday at 10am (03:00 GMT).
The vote is taking place under a new constitution that gives the military considerable influence over the country’s civilian politics and makes it difficult for any party to win a majority in the 500-seat lower house. The upper house is appointed by the military.
Prayuth Chan-ocha, the retired army general who led the coup against the country’s last elected government five years ago, hopes the election will return him to power as a civilian prime minister.
The prime minister will be the person who secures a majority across both houses, and the 250-seat Senate is seen as giving Prayuth an advantage.
“This constitution was written to support a crazy party,” Boon Srichok, 77, told Al Jazeera at Pheu Thai’s headquarters in Bangkok. “Palang Pracharat already had 250 by law and that’s not fair. It’s cheating.”
Turnout stood at 65.96 percent, below expectations. In early voting last week, it was 87 percent.
About 52 million voters were registered to vote, some seven million of them for the first time.
Thais are choosing their representatives through a complicated system that includes both direct votes and a party list, and while the official results will not be announced until after the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn in May, the Election Commission is expected to announce preliminary results hours after the polls close.
The king himself released an announcement on the eve of the election that was broadcast across national television to say that Thais should support “good people” to run the country.
Thailand has been consumed by divisions between supporters and opponents of Thaksin since he was elected prime minister in 2001 promising to help ordinary people who had long felt ignored by the traditional elites in Bangkok.
Thaksin was overthrown in a coup in 2006 after mass street protests by the so-called “yellow shirts” and lives in exile after being found guilty of corruption. He says the charges were politically motivated.
The cycle of Thaksin-backed election win, instability and coup continued until Prayuth seized control of the country in 2014, banning political activity and cracking down on freedom of expression.
Despite the ban being lifted to allow election campaigning, parties and candidates continue to operate in a restrictive environment.
Thai Raksa Chart, another Thaksin-linked party, was banned and dissolved in February after nominating Princess Ubolratana, the king’s elder sister, as its candidate for prime minister.
Thanathorn faces court on Tuesday for criticising the military.
Parties need to secure 376 seats for a majority so it is possible for Palang Pracharat to form a government with only 126 seats in the lower house, assuming they have the support of the 250-seat upper house which is appointed by the military.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS