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Turnout low for vote reruns in 5 provinces

SITUATION MOSTLY CALM BUT ONLY 10.2% OF VOTERS GO TO POLLS

RE-RUNS of the widely disrupted general election opened peacefully yesterday in five provinces, poll authorities said, in the first move to complete a troubled vote that could provide a mandate for a new government.

But the turnout for the election in the five provinces was a very low 10.2 per cent with 9,835 voters turning out to vote.

The five provinces are Phet-chaburi, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkram, Rayong and Petchabun.

The election on February 2 failed to ease the months-long political crisis after anti-government protesters seeking to topple caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra obstructed the vote in many opposition strongholds.

Demonstrators prevented more than 10,000 polling stations from opening, affecting several million people, mainly in opposition strongholds in Bangkok and the South.

The Election Commission said the results would not be announced until voting had been completed in all constituencies as well as in the party-list system, setting a rough deadline of April for their completion.

A total of around 120,000 people were registered in 101 constituencies across five provinces for yesterday's vote, election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn told AFP.

"The polls are going peacefully - everything is under control and there are no problems," Somchai said, adding that a few dozen protesters blew whistles at one polling station in Rayong province.

A trickle of voters arrived at two polling stations early yesterday in Phetchaburi - one of the affected provinces south of Bangkok - according to an AFP reporter, but there were no signs of obstruction of the polls.

Until the full results are announced, Yingluck remains in a caretaker role with limited power over policy.

Under Thai election law, 95 per cent of the 500 seats in the Lower House of Parliament must be filled to enable a House convening session before the appointment of a new government.

The main opposition party, which boycotted the vote, in February lost a legal bid to nullify a controversial election.

Somchai said the EC would invite four political parties to hold talks on Friday in Songkhla to discuss using measures and methods in the five provinces that have proven successful in solving problems that may arise from elections in the remaining provinces.

He dismissed criticism the EC was unable to hold the election quickly in all remaining provinces, reasoning that each province had its own problems.

The EC would allow an election to be held only in provinces that are ready and where the agency was confident polling could be held without violence.

Meanwhile, His Majesty the King yesterday signed a royal decree for a Senate election on March 30 for elected senators whose term expired yesterday.

The candidacy registration for the Upper House election has been scheduled for tomorrow until Saturday, Somchai said.

He said in some provinces, the MP election and senatorial election could be held on the same day, March 30, as the King had endorsed |the royal decree for the Senate election.


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