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Polls open in tense national election

Thailand's tense national election got underway Sunday with protesters forcing the closure of several polling stations in the capital amid fears of more bloodshed a day after gun battles in Bangkok left seven people wounded.

The outcome will almost certainly be inconclusive. Because protesters blocked candidate registration in some districts, parliament will not have enough members to convene. That means beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will be unable to form a government or even pass a budget, and Thailand will be stuck in political limbo for months as byelections are run in constituencies that were unable to vote.

The exchange of fire was the latest flare-up in a monthslong campaign by protesters to overthrow Yingluck's government, which they accuse of corruption. The violence crystallized the power struggle that has devolved into a battle of wills between the government and protesters — and those caught between who insist on their right to vote.

Under heavy police security, Yingluck cast her vote at a polling station in northeastern Bangkok, cheered on by supporters.

"Today is an important day," Yingluck told reporters. "I would like to invite Thai people to come out and vote to uphold democracy."

At one of the more volatile districts of central Bangkok, a group of would-be voters in Din Daeng tried and failed to push through a crowd of protesters.

"This is too much. I want to vote," said 42-year-old Yupin Pintong, a Bangkok resident. "I don't care if there's violence. I will be really upset if I don't get to vote."

 

 

 

The Canadian Press
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