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Most polling stations in South fail to open

Feb 02. 2014
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No ballots cast in nine provinces;voting in North, NorthEast goes smoothly
SUNDAY’S ELECTION hit a major snag in the southern region, with most polling stations there unable to operate. 
Of 12,335 polling stations in the South, only 3,104 were able to open yesterday. 
But the election went smoothly in the north and the northeast, the solid political support bases of the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government, which called the snap election. 
The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which is led by Suthep Thaugsuban, has called on its supporters to press for political reform before an election is held. 
A huge number of southern residents have thrown their support behind the PDRC, with many of them turning out in full force to thwart the snap election in their home provinces.
The south is also a stronghold of the Democrat Party, which boycotted yesterday’s election. 
“Not a single polling station was able to open in nine southern provinces,” Election Commission (EC) deputy secretary general Thanis Sriprathes said yesterday. 
In Songkhla, the PDRC members have surrounded the Hat Yai Post Office for days to block distribution of ballots and ballot boxes. Without these tools, polling stations could not open in many southern provinces yesterday.
In most provinces in the region, no officials turned out to man the polling stations anyway. 
All polling stations in Trang, Songkhla, Phatthalung, Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani, Phang Nga, Phuket and Krabi remained closed.
Thanis added that some polling stations in five other provinces – Prachuap Khiri Khan, Satun, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Yala and Pattani – were also closed.
Some polling stations shut down in the presence of protesting PDRC members, who showed up nearby. 
No party-list ballots were cast at any of the southern polling stations that managed to open yesterday, because the papers had been blocked from distribution at the Hat Yai Post Office. 
The PDRC members in Surat Thani declared victory after the EC officially announced yesterday that no voting would take place in their hometown. 
In Songkhla, many PDRC protesters erupted in joy for the same reason. 
In Trang, a local leader of the PDRC vowed to continue pressuring the government. “We will neither stop nor back down,” Saksarit Sriprasart said.
The PDRC has been pushing for the establishment of a “People’s Council” to implement reform in the country. It says this will prevent ill-intentioned politicians from hurting the country. According to the PDRC, the election will be held after the reform.
Yingluck called the House dissolution late last year in the face of massive protests, which have gained momentum since the Lower House’s pre-dawn move to pass the controversial amnesty bill. 
Despite continued pressure from the PDRC ever since, her administration has insisted that the general election is a means to resolve the country’s problems.
Thailand has 375 constituencies.
Thanis said problems hit 37 out of 56 southern constituencies yesterday. 
In the Central region (excluding Bangkok), there are 94 constituencies in 25 provinces. Of them, Thanis said only four constituencies in Phetchaburi and Rayong faced problems. 
In the north and northeast, no constituencies had problems. 
“We haven’t seen any protest today,” Prayad Yakhanong said as the chair of the Uthai Thani election committee. 
A big number of voters were seen flocking to polling stations in the North and Northeast yesterday. 
An official at the Kalasin election committee believed that voter turnout in the northeastern province of Kalasin would be around 60 per cent. 
Natsuda Wisoldilokphan, a visually-impaired student at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, showed up to exercise her voting right at a polling station in the Northeast.
She used Braille ballots to vote for both party-list and constituency-based MP candidates. 
“I’ve come to vote because I think it’s a means to participate in the country’s development under a democratic system,” Natsuda said. 

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