Asia-Pacific

Thailand election: Final rallies ahead of Sunday vote

Yingluck Shinawatra, 1 July Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Yingluck Shinawatra says she is confident of an outright majority of more than 250 seats

The final campaign rallies have taken place in Thailand ahead of Sunday's general election.

The two main parties organised election convoys through Bangkok.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva's ruling Democrats face a tough battle against the Puea Thai Party, which is allied to ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra and currently led by his sister, Yingluck.

Thailand has endured six years of often bloody political protests and there is tight security for the poll nationwide.

About 170,000 police have been deployed to protect polling stations as Thai citizens return to their home districts to vote.

Last year saw some of the worst violence in decades, with dozens killed. It echoed deep divisions between the ruling elite, linked to the Democrats, and the rural and working class voters that have largely supported Mr Thaksin.

Many of the demonstrators killed last year were supporters of Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

'Reconciliation'

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok says that although Thaksin Shinawatra is not on the ballot and not even in the country he remains a powerful and divisive political presence.

Mr Thaksin is living in exile in Dubai following a two-year corruption conviction in Thailand.

Mr Abhisit has accused Yingluck Shinawatra, 44, of being a proxy for her brother, who is pulling the strings for his own ends.

Puea Thai's own slogan is: "Thaksin thinks, Puea Thai does".

Mr Abhisit says Yingluck Shinawatra wants to secure the return of Mr Thaksin, a move that could lead to political instability.

Yingluck Shinawatra, who is vying to become the nation's first woman prime minister, has promised to revive her older brother's populist policies if she wins.

At a rally in Bangkok late on Friday she said: "Please give a chance to this woman to serve the country. Please give a chance to this woman to bring reconciliation back to this country."

She urged a "free and fair election" and said she was confident of an outright majority of more than 250 seats.

Mr Abhisit said at his rally that the country must "get rid of the poison of Thaksin".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Abhisit Vejjajiva vowed to get rid of the "poison" of Thaksin

"As long as Thaksin thinks, Puea Thai has to do it - to find ways to give Thaksin back his seized 46bn baht ($1.5bn)," Mr Abhisit said.

Parties linked to Mr Thaksin have won the past four polls, although courts overturned the last two, triggering an angry response by his "Red Shirt" supporters.

Opinion polls favour a similar result, with a predicted victory for Puea Thai.

If that happens, analysts say all eyes will once again be on the courts - and the military, which has regularly intervened in the political process.

Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday stressed again that the military would stay neutral in Sunday's vote.

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