Thailand votes in first post-coup election

Thai voters have taken part in the country’s first general election since the 2014 coup.

Thailand has been buffeted by political instability for years, largely a battle between supporters of the military and ousted former Prime Minister (PM) Thaksin Shinawatra.

After seizing power the army promised to restore order and democracy, but has repeatedly postponed the vote.

Critics say a new constitution the army introduced will ensure it remains influential whatever the outcome.

More than 50 million people are eligible to vote and the authorities said turnout could be as high as 80 per cent.

More than seven million people aged between 18-26 have the right to vote for the first time and could be key to victory, so all parties have been keen to court their vote.

On the eve of the election, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a statement urging “peace and order” during the voting process.

The statement, which was featured on national television on Saturday evening, urged voters to “support the good people”.

Voters in central Bangkok faced a final obstacle as they tried to cast their ballot – determined runners steaming through the park where an open-air polling station had been set up.

But after waiting five years since the military coup, Thais are determined to finally have their say on their country’s future – even if the electoral system has been skewed by the ruling junta to try to keep them in power.

The beaming faces of the 31 different candidates here in the Klong Toey constituency look out from a big poster which provides a last-minute visual guide for those picking up their ballot papers. Really, though, this election boils down to a simple choice – do you want the army to stay in power?

We meet Peerasin, 23, who is one of seven million first-time voters. He and his mum explain that they’re hopeful for change but that dad is more conservative. Dad nods and smiles in agreement.

Next, a family of eight arrives to cast their votes. Sisters Mai, a banker and May, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, say they don’t talk politics at home. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have passionate opinions.

So what’s your message to whoever wins power, I ask.

“The country has been suffering for a long time,” Mai explains. “But we hope this election will end peacefully and that there will be no corruption. We are hopeful.” –BBC

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