International desk – Battered by years of political instability, Thailand conducted its first general election for the first time after the 2014 coup.
The voting was peaceful Sunday and the counting would be finished by an hour after the polls closed, election officials said adding that the unofficial results would be known by 8pm local time.
The official result will be announced on May 9, Bangkok Post newspaper reported quoting Election Commission chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong.
Ittiporn urged voters to remember the guidelines spoken by King Rama IX, that people should select good people to govern and control bad people — which King Rama X referred to in an announcement from the Royal Household Bureau on Saturday night.
He expected a voter turnout of 80 per cent.
Thirty-nine electoral officials from 14 countries, mostly Asian nations, were observing the election. They included officials from Australia, Bhutan, Indonesia, the Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, East Timor and Vietnam.
There were about 50 million eligible voters in Thailand, which has been under political instability because of a battle between supporters of the military and ousted former 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.
The last election was conducted in 2011.
More than seven million people aged between 18 and 26 are eligible to vote for the first time and could be key to victory, so all parties have been keen to court their vote, according to BBC.
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”.
The election is primarily a contest between pro-military parties and allies of Thaksin.
Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a conviction for abuse of power. But he still has a significant following, largely among rural and less affluent voters.
Parties loyal to Thaksin have won every election since 2001. Pheu Thai (For Thais) is the leading Thaksin-loyal party campaigning this time.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup ousting Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014, has been nominated as the only prime ministerial candidate of the newly formed pro-military Palang Pracha Rath Party (PPRP).
Among other prominent parties are the Democrats, led by former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the new Future Forward party, led by a young telecoms billionaire, Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit.