A controversial election in Thailand will proceed as scheduled Sunday despite threats of continued violence from antigovernment protesters and fear that the result will only deepen the country’s eight-year political crisis. Thai election officials initially called for the parliamentary elections to be postponed six months because of the unrest. But the election commission relented after meeting Tuesday with beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has pushed for the vote to proceed because she believes that it will strengthen her slipping grip on power. Protesters who have called for Yingluck to give up power disrupted advance voting that began Sunday, shutting down 19 of 50 polling stations in Bangkok and many more in the southern provinces. One prominent protest leader, Suthin Tharathin, was shot and killed near a Bangkok polling station. Another leading protester has vowed to block all voting places in the capital on election day. Underscoring the threat of violence, about 500 anti-government protesters gathered Tuesday outside a military facility, advancing toward a police barricade as election commissioners held talks with Yingluck inside. On the street nearby, at least two people were injured by gunfire, news agencies reported.
Yingluck, who has been leading a caretaker government with few powers, called the parliamentary elections in December in hope of solidifying her power and calming the protests. But the push for elections has only worsened Thailand’s political crisis and emboldened the protesters, who want to eliminate what they regard as the Shinawatra clan’s corrupt influence over national politics.
Although Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party are popular in rural areas, the urban Bangkok elite see her as a puppet of her brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecommunications mogul whom many accuse of corruption and nepotism.
The most recent turmoil was sparked by the party’s proposal of an amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return to Thailand from self-imposed exile in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, without facing charges.
Full Article: Thailand election will proceed despite threats – latimes.com.