Anti-government protesters in Thailand marched downtown from north Bangkok on Monday, consolidating their efforts to topple controversial prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
The number of major road junctions they have blockaded in Bangkok has been reduced from seven to five, apparently through fear of attack. However, dwindling numbers could also explain the demonstrators’ decision to regroup.
On Sunday, they blockaded polling stations in parts of the capital and the south, preventing millions of people from voting.
Led by Suthep Thaugsuban, the protesters are demanding a reform of the political system and want the government to be replaced with an unelected “people’s council.”
The group has long alleged that Yingluck’s government is controlled by her brother – ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra – and accuse his allies of buying rural votes.
Their main opposition, the Democrat Party, has not won a majority in parliament for more than 20 years.
Yinglick Shinawatra’s ruling party is expected to be victorious once more when the outcome of the election is finally announced.
But the vote is unlikely to change the country’s dysfunctional political situation, as political analyst Somjai Phagaphasvivat explained:
“Our economy will be the victim of this polarisation because I expect that the government – regardless of whether the convening of parliament is possible or not, (and) regardless of which government will run – I expect that given all this uncertainty and also the impact on the confidence of investors, I expect the government for the future will be at best a lame duck government,” said Phagaphasvivat.
Thailand has been blighted by eight years of turmoil in which the largely Bangkok-based middle class and royalist establishment have been pitted against Shinawatra’s mostly poor, rural supporters.
Balloting was blocked in a fifth of the country’s constituencies, meaning not all seats in parliament will be filled.
A new parliament cannot sit until at least 95 percent of the seats have been allocated, and by-elections will now be required in many areas.