Thai protesters vowed yesterday to stage larger rallies in central Bangkok and push ahead their efforts to nullify the results of elections that were expected to prolong a national political crisis.
Despite fears of violence, voting proceeded peacefully in 90 percent of polling stations on Sunday. The protesters forced polling booths to close in Bangkok and southern Thailand, disenfranchising millions of registered voters. As a result, not all parliament seats will be filled and a series of by-elections are required to complete voting, extending political paralysis for months.
After disrupting voting, protesters say they will fight the election on several grounds, including that it is required by law to be held on one day. The opposition Democrat Party, which backs the protesters and boycotted the vote, yesterday said it was studying other legal justifications to invalidate the vote.
The struggle to hold the polls was part of a three-month-old conflict that has split the country between supporters of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and opponents who allege her government is too corrupt to rule.
Demonstrators have occupied major intersections in Bangkok and forced government ministries to shut down and work elsewhere.
“We are not giving up the fight. We still keep fighting,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said. “Our mission is to keep shutting down government offices, so don’t ask us to give those back.”
Suthep, a charismatic speaker and former opposition lawmaker, said the movement was closing two of its Bangkok protest sites and asking crowds to consolidate at five other locations, mostly in the business center of the capital.
The new plan was bound to cause more disruption in the center of Bangkok, where protesters have shut major intersections in the Silom and Sukhumvit business districts and Ratchaprasong shopping district, where the city’s upscale malls are located.
The protesters want to suspend democracy and are demanding the government be replaced by an unelected council that would rewrite political and electoral laws to combat what they say are deep-seated problems of corruption and money politics.
Yingluck has refused to step down, saying she was elected by a landslide majority and is open to reform, but that such a council would be unconstitutional and undemocratic.