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Troubled poll ends smoothly (updated Monday)

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The February 2 general election was free of major violence, but many polling stations could not open and turnout was low at those that could. Now legal challenges have put the poll in doubt. (Includes yesterday's live coverage) 

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Voting is over in the Feb 2 phase of the general election, but serious legal challenges remain. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL

Monday morning update

Here's a quick summary of how voting went yesterday in yesterday's general election and the legal challenges that will likely follow. (Scroll down to the end of the test for the audio)

The Election Commission yesterday had to cancel voting at 10,283 polling stations in 69 constituencies nationwide. Voting was called off in all constituencies of nine southern provinces. Poll reruns will be held for about 8.75 million voters affected by yesterday’s disruptions.

Only 89.2% of 93,952 polling stations nationwide could be opened for voting.

EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said about 13 million voters who could not exercise their right to vote made up about 25% of the entire electorate of almost 49 million eligible voters.

Turnout throughout the country was much lower than the previous election which took place in 2011.

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration reported unofficial voter turnouts yesterday in Bangkok at 1.14 million people, or 26.18% of a total of 4.36 million eligible voters, compared to voter turnouts of 71.62% in the July 3, 2011 election.

Election workers in Minburi take out election materials for safekeeping after the process was completed yesterday without problems. WEERAWONG WONGPREEDEE

Voting in the North and Northeast, strongholds of the Pheu Thai Party, proceeded peacefully yesterday but the overall atmosphere was far from lively.

The polling stations in 17 northern provinces and 19 northeastern provinces were opened for voting and closed as scheduled.

Political observers said the election was smooth but there were thin crowds at most polling stations.

In the South, People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters blocked the post offices in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Songkhla and Chumphon to prevent the ballot papers from being distributed to the 14 southern provinces.

With voting completed, legal problems could render the election null and void.

An EC source told Isra News Centre that the legal team suggested that the Feb 2 election was likely to be nullified because the EC did not have the authority to hold the election since 28 constituencies did not have candidates.

By law, rescheduled polls for constituencies which failed to hold elections due to chaos or unexpected incidents, can only take place in constituencies which have candidates. The situation of the 28 constituencies without candidates is unclear.

According to the legal team, another royal decree must be issued for re-registration to solve the problem, but the Feb 2 election must be revoked.

As a result, the legal team suggested the EC seek the Constitution Court’s judgement.

Meanwhile, a senior government source said more elections will be held in constituencies where there were disruptions. These elections need to be held within 180 days according to the law, he said.

‘‘If yesterday’s elections are declared null and void, we will go through the election process again and the result will be the same,” the source said.

He admitted that the country’s future status could be described as being in a state of ‘’political limbo”.

Feb 2 election coverage as it happened

As the day goes on, more and more angry residents are gathering outside districts where voting has been cancelled to voice their dissatisfaction. Here they harangue the Bang Kapi election head where voting could not proceed because of a lack of election officials. NATTAPOL LOVAKIJ

Polliing stations have now closed around the country and the vote proceeded smoothly except in the many areas blocked by protesters or lacking voting essentials like ballots and election officials. Yesterday's violence in Bangkok's Lak Si district on election-eve increased the tension, but thankfully there was little violence today -- anger yes, but not much violence.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra holds up her ballot for photographers at her local polling station. Unfortunately, she put it in the wrong ballot box, a story which ended up as a social media sensation. CHANAT KATANYU

Another voter who generated a lot of interest this morning was Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha APICHART JINAKUL

16:50

The highlight of the afternoon for the Lumpini rally site was this group portrait urging voters to stay away from the polls. SITHIKORN WONGWUDTHIANUN

As for the PDRC, new reports naturally focused on the groups that surrounded district offices early this morning, closing off the distribution of ballots and causing many polling stations to close. For the vast majority of protesters, however, today was a fun day of picnics in the streets and other activities.

One of the main sites for the PDRC street picnic today was in the Chitlom area. SUNAN LORSOMSAB

Joe Nuvo, who performed two shows yesterday, was the big attraction at the Pathumwan rally site. NATTAPOL LOVAKIJ

16:00

The vote counting began soon after voting was closed at Wat Don Muang school in Bangkok. THITI WANNAMONTHA

The polls closed about an hour ago and the vote count began shortly afterward. There will be no official announcement of the results today because of so many disruptions, but since the vote count is open, we will shortly be getting unofficials returns from many polling units.

Altogether about ten percent of Thailand 93,952 polling units were unable to open. Since many were in large Bangkok constituencies, however, the percentage of voters unable to vote is much higher, about 25 percent of the 48 million voters – if you count both today's vote and last week's advanced vote.

Observers will be watching closely for statistics on (1) the turnout, (2) the percent of "no" votes, i.e., people who voted without choosing a candidate and (3) the percentage voting for Phue Thai, the only major party in the election.

12:30

Residents of Pranburi district of Prachuab Khiri Khan file complaints with police after they found their polling station was closed and all election officials were absent. CHAIWAT SARDYAEM

It is the South, of course, where the most serious disruptions have occurred.Here is the latest from our online reporters:

Election officials cancelled the poll in nine of 14 provinces in the South. The provinces of Songkhla, Trang, Phatthalung, Phuket, Surat Thani, Ranong, Krabi, Chumphon and Phangnga had no voting at all.

They did not have constituency candidates, no party-list ballot papers and no officials to man the polling stations, Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Puchong Nuttrawong said.

Voting was underway in four of nine constituencies in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, he said. Booths were open in all constituencies in Satun, Yala, Narathiwat and Pattana but voters could not vote for party-list candidates as there were no ballot sheets, he added

12:00

Perhaps the story getting the most attention this morning involved Chuvit Kamolvisit, leader of the Rak Thailand Party. Here is a report from our online reporters:

Chuvit Kamolvisit, leader of the Rak Thailand Party, was attacked by a man while on the way to vote at polling unit 84 in Din Daeng district, reports said.

Mr Chuvit was walking to the polling station from his home in Soi Ratchadapisek 3 when a man dressed in black and with a whistle bearing the colours of the national flag charged at him, striking him on the left side of his head.

The man, believed to be an anti-government protester, was immediately apprehended by Mr Chuvit's guards. He suffered a head injury and then fled on a motorcycle.

Mr Chuvit reportedly said that he would not file a police complaint or hold any grudge against the man, adding that he only cared about exercising his right to vote.

11:20

These Din Daeng residents want to vote. PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH

Angry Din Daeng residents who have been denied the opportunity to vote have just broken through the locked gates of the district office only to find that all election officials have gone home. The same area was surrounded earlier by PDRC protesters which forced its closure. It looks like the residents have little choice but to file complaints with the police.

News reports naturally focus on areas of conflict, but throughout most of the country, voting is proceeding normally – even in Bangkok. Here voters in Bangkok's Suan Luang check the list of candidates before voting. KOSOL NAKACHOL

10:00

The list of Bangkok districts unable to open polling stations is growing. There is Lak Si, of course, where yesterday's shootout occurred, but Ratchathewi, near PDRC rally sites and Din Daeng have not opened as well. Frustrated residents are reported to have gathered outside polling stations in Din Daeng, demanding to be able to vote. We can now add Ban Kapi to the list of districts that have been unable open polling stations. There are also reports of closures at individual polling stations because of a lack of election staff. Bang Rak is one, a station in the Sathorn Nua area is another. There are now reports of some closures in Wattana as well.

Chalerm Yubamrung, caretaker Labour Minister and the director of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, arrives at his local polling station to vote. PAWAT LAOPAISARNTAKSIN

9:45

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was an "early-bird" voter this morning, casting her ballot near her home in Bung Kan district. Security was tight but many locals turned out to give her moral support and the foreign media presence was heavy.

Caretaker Interior Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan has also voted without incident.

Violence at Lak Si

Post Reporters

Innocent bystanders at a Lak Si shopping centre crouch to avoid bullets streaming out from a comfrontation between PDRC protesters and a pro-government group. APICHIT JINAKUL

A man said to be from the anti-government side readies a gun concealed in a bag. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL

Soldiers are now on duty near the Lak Si district office. Voting has been cancelled there after yesterdays' violence. KITJA APICHONROJAREK

The Lak Si intersection was the site of yesterday's violence, with those caught up in the mayhem crouching behind cars and ducking on a pedestrian bridge while others fled inside a nearby shopping mall. Several masked gunmen wearing armoured vests bent down under an overpass as one of them fired a weapon concealed in a sack.

PDRC protesters led by monk Luang Pu Buddha Issara gathered a group of demonstrators from the Chaeng Watthana rally site to besiege Lak Si district office on Friday evening. Their aim was to block the transportation of ballot papers from the office to polling stations today.

The protesters tightened security after reports yesterday morning that the Pathum Thani hardline red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kachatham, known as Ko Tee, would lead supporters to Lak Si to force open a path for officials to take out the ballot papers and other equipment.

Protest guards told women and children to take shelter inside the district office compound and then built bunkers of sand bags.

About 3pm, a convoy of around 200 people wearing multi-colours and led by a pickup arrived at Lak Si temple and in front of IT Square shopping mall, 500m from the PDRC group gathering in front of the district office. The group announced they were pro-election and told the PDRC supporters to let the polling booth equipment pass through. Mr Wuthipong was not with the group.

Police from Metropolitan Police Division 9 stepped in to negotiate with the group to prevent a clash. The police also talked to the PDRC leaders and asked them to open a path. Their request was denied.

The situation became tense when the pro-election group moved toward the district office and the PDRC protesters.

Police then used vans and trucks to block the two groups and soldiers were deployed to stand between them.

Just after 4pm, trucks carrying about 100 PDRC protesters from the Lat Phrao rally site arrived in the area and confronted the pro-election group on the opposite side of Chaeng Watthana Road.

Soon after, the sound of at least two bombs exploding was heard near the flyover bridge over Lak Si intersection, leaving at least two people injured, including Chirawat Sukhanon, a reporter from Daily News newspaper. It was reported that the blasts came from giant firecrackers.

Members of the media seek the safety of a police booth which turned out to be not so safe. APICHIT JINAKUL

Chaos erupted around the intersection and several more giant firecrackers were heard as well as gun shots.

According to Bangkok's Erawan emergency centre, six people were injured, four men and two women. Among the casualties was American photojournalist James Nachtwey, who was shot in the leg. His condition is not serious.

More than 10 journalists and 30 people were trapped behind a police booth as continuing volleys of shots rang out.

Soldiers from the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen evacuated them.

Chinnawat Paettayanont, a 30-year-old Matichon reporter, said he and many others caught in the middle of the turmoil ducked for cover in a police booth next to the railway.

They hid there for two hours until soldiers arrived.

Two shots hit the booth's mirror during the chaos.

There were 13 reporters, four policemen and two other people in the booth.

"Some female reporters started to cry. We tried to console each other. We called and used chat messages to ask for help," Chinnawat said.

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