Large crowds for advance voting

1.4 million turn up around country; but some unable to vote until after 3pm 'close'

Election fever ran high yesterday as dozens of determined citizens were still waiting their turn to cast their ballot at their polling station by the 3pm closing of advance voting around the country.

In Bangkok, workers and students from the South and Northeast showed up in droves because they could not return home on election day.

Some 2.6 million people, including 1.07 million in the capital, had registered to exercise their democratic rights ahead of the July 3 vote.

Bang Kapi district witnessed the biggest turnout, with about 60,000 showing up during the 8am-3pm voting period.

District chief Seerosankar Pathan said those coming at 3pm would be allowed to vote despite the closing time.

Election Commission chairman Apichart Sukhaggamond said he was satisfied with the general atmosphere of advance balloting.

Only two incidents were reported involving the unwitting destruction of ballots in Bangkok and Ayutthaya, he said.

The rules might be amended to extend advance balloting from the current one day to two days for the next general election in view of the big crowds, he said.

National Police chief General Wichean Potphosree said the day proceeded smoothly. A 21-year-old man from Sakhon Nakhon tore up his ballot by mistake because he thought he was supposed to put just the portion he marked into the ballot box, he said.

The incident happened at the Bang Na district office, a designated central polling station.

Some 22 suspects were arrested for violating the alcohol ban on Saturday night, he said.

He praised the many civic groups assisting to watch out for voting fraud.

Some 2,340 police were mobilised to maintain order at 50 polling stations under 46 police stations in the capital, he added.

Thida Thawornseth, acting chairwoman for the red-shirt movement, said that from her inspection of polling activities in Bangkok, there were several flaws.

At a polling station in Muang Thong Thani, officials had failed to identify the station where the ballots were to be cast, so there might be some confusion in vote tallying, she said.

Some polling stations were not cooperative in granting access to observers, she said.

Pheu Thai candidate Yingluck Shinawatra voiced concern over security measures for the transport of ballot boxes.

EC member Prapun Naigowit said ballot boxes would be kept at district offices under 24-hour surveillance, with three officials taking turns at monitoring security cameras.

Representatives of political parties would be allowed to ensure the ballot boxes were stored properly, he said.

Every ballot cast could be identified by a seal, which would prevent any attempts to stuff the boxes, he said.


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