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Electoral outcome uncertainty on eve of Thai snap election

Written by: Staff
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Bangkok, Apr 1 (UNI) Campaigning ended today for Thailand's snap national poll tomorrow expected to be won for the third successive time by caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra amidst concerns that the new parliament may fall short of the necessary numbers.

With the main opposition parties boycotting the April 2 election, Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party is unchallenged in several of the 400 directly elected seats in the 500-member House of Representatives.

One hundred seats are filled by party list candidates chosen in proportion to the percentage of votes polled by each party.

Under the Constitution, a candidate for an uncontested parliamentary seat must get at least 20 percent of the votes.

Independent political observers agree this would be difficult in several single candidate constituencies.

More than 50 members of parliament are elected from south Thailand, the traditional stronghold of the main opposition Democrat Party.

Mr Thaksin has declared that he will not become prime minister if his party gets less than half of the total votes cast on polling day. Over 40 million of the about 60 million Thais are eligible to vote.

Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai which is the country's first political party to form an elected single party majority government, won 19 million votes in the 2005 parliament election returning to office for a record second term.

Tomorrow's snap election was called by the caretaker prime minister in late February following the political storm triggered by the late January sale of his family telecom business to a foreign company.

For nearly three months, Mr Thaksin has been under pressure from massive street protests led by a coalition of people's groups who accuse him of inability to separate personal and public interests and trampling on media freedom.

Both the opposition parties and the anti-government people's campaign are demanding constitutional reform under a neutral administration installed by Thailand's revered king instead of a new election.

They have rejected Mr Thaksin's offer to initiate reform of Thailand's 1997 Constitution, which they want to curb the strong executive powers they allege have been used by Mr Thaksin to undermine constitutional checks and balances.

UNI XC VD PC2351

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