July 1 - Candidates and voters prepare for Sunday's general election. Arnold Gay reports.
With a little over a day left before Thais head to the polls, final preparations are in full swing. Across the country, officials are readying ballot sheets and voting boxes, while polling stations are busy making sure voters have complete lists of all 42 parties contesting in the poll. Out on the streets, supporters and ordinary citizens alike, are encouraging Thais to vote on Sunday (July 3). The leading candidates themselves are campaigning full steam, as they make last ditch efforts to woo voters, ahead of a campaign ban Saturday. Of the 42 parties, only two are in real contention to win significant seats in parliament. Recent polls show the Puea Thai Party in the lead. Although fronted by Yingluck Shinawatra, the group is the latest incarnation of her brother, the former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Also jostling for power is the Democrat Party, led by current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Although popular with the middle class and in the South, the party has struggled to win the support of the poor, who form the majority of voters in Thailand. Neither Puea Thai nor the Democrats is seen as capable of winning a clear majority, which means a likely coalition government. This in turn is leading to fears of further political instability. (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) 45-YEAR-OLD BANGKOK RESIDENT, PATCHARIN SOONTHANON, SAYING: "If the 'yellow-shirts' emerge as the winners, the 'red-shirts' will not be happy. If the 'red-shirts' are not happy, they will burn things and then other conflict will occur." The Red Shirts are aligned to Thaksin's Puea Thai Party. The Yellow Shirts are a loose grouping that includes the royalist establishment, the military, "old money" elite and much of the middle class in Bangkok. In terms of policies, there is little to distinguish the Democrats from Puea Thai, with Abhisit also promising to raise minimum wages and free healthcare in a bid to win over pro-Thaksin voters. Election results are expected as early as Sunday evening. Arnold Gay, Reuters.