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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Q&A: Thailand votes
Demonstrators gather during a protest march in Bangkok
Elections are unlikely to bring an end to political tensions

Thais voted on Sunday, amid protests in Bangkok calling for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign.

Mr Thaksin called the elections three years earlier than planned in an attempt to quell mounting criticism against him over corruption allegations.

His Thai Rak Thai party is running unopposed in almost half of the country's 400 constituencies as all three main opposition parties are boycotting the poll.

How does the election work?

Of the 500 members of parliament, 400 are elected directly from constituencies.

The remaining 100 seats are elected via a system of proportional representation. A party must win at least 5% of all votes cast nationally to be eligible to win one of these seats.

Which parties are standing in the poll?

Thailand's three main opposition parties - the Democrat Party, the Chart Thai Party and the Mahachon Party - are leading the boycott.

This leaves Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai and 17 small parties. But the Election Commission has said none of the small parties is likely to win the 5% of votes needed for the proportional representation seats.

Also, more than a third of the 941 candidates have been disqualified for failing to meet minimum requirements to stand in the poll.

Can the poll still go ahead?

The Thai constitution technically allows for a one-party election. But to win a seat the sole party contesting has to show it has won at least 20% of all eligible votes.

Observers say the outcome of the previous general election, held in February 2005, shows the Thai Rak Thai party may have difficulty in reaching this target in at least 60 constituencies.

The Democrat Party has alleged that Thai Rak Thai has hired candidates to run for smaller parties in areas where support would likely be less than 20%. Mr Thaksin has denied the allegations.

What happens if seats in parliament go unfilled?

Under the constitution, all 500 parliamentary seats must be filled for the lower house to convene, and there is no precedent for what happens if this does not take place.

The constitution only states that a full parliament must convene within 30 days of the election. All parliamentary seats must be filled for a prime minister to be elected and a government to be formed.

The Election Commission Secretary General Ekachai Waroonprapa recently warned that the election might not produce a parliament. "We have prepared several options to be ready for whatever the election results are," he told a local Thai TV station.

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