Protesters seeking to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra disrupted Thailand’s general election on Sunday in what appeared to be a prelude to more political upheaval. The opposition forces, who represent a minority of Thais and are seeking to replace the country’s elected government with an appointed council of technocrats, said they would challenge the election results in court while continuing to hold street demonstrations in Bangkok, the capital. Protesters stopped the distribution of ballot boxes on Sunday and pressed election officials to call off voting in a number of districts in Bangkok and in most of southern Thailand, the stronghold of the protest movement. Although no violence was reported during voting hours, a battle in the capital on Saturday between would-be voters and gunmen allied with the protesters left at least seven people wounded and might have deterred voters the next day.
One of those unable to vote on Sunday was an election commissioner, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, whose polling place in Bangkok was shut because protesters prevented the delivery of ballot boxes. Furious Bangkok residents filed complaints at police stations while protesters nearby, many of them looking threatening with military-style clothing and covered faces, blocked access to roads near polling places. “This is the dark ages,” said Wantanee Suthachiva, a businesswoman who was turned away from her polling place.
In a stark illustration of the divisions in Thailand, the election went smoothly in northern, central and eastern regions. Voting was successfully carried out in nearly 90 percent of the country’s 375 electoral districts; the disruptions were limited to Bangkok and the south.
But the protesters’ actions — both on Sunday and during the registration process leading up to the vote — will force a series of smaller elections before any government can be formed, a process that is likely to take months.