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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
Thai PM sees early poll setback

Thai prime minister votes
Mr Thaksin called the poll three years early
Early indications from Thailand's general election show the number of abstentions may exceed votes for the prime minister in some areas.

Thaksin Shinawatra trailed the "no vote" in much of Bangkok and areas in the south, although his main support base is in northern and rural areas.

Opposition parties accuse the PM of corruption and boycotted the election.

Mr Thaksin said he would consider plans for "reconciliation" as he attended a meeting of his party on Monday.

According to some Thai media reports, Mr Thaksin may be thinking of handing over to one of his deputies as a way of defusing the tension.

He told reporters: "If the media give me an option that could reconcile all sides, I don't necessarily need to be the prime minister. But this doesn't mean that I will continue to be or I won't be the prime minister."

He is expected to give a television interview later on Monday.

Mandate

Mr Thaksin had called the snap election in an attempt to end months of instability over the corruption claims against him.

Because of the opposition boycott, there is little doubt that he will win, as many candidates for his Thai Rak Thai party are running unopposed.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The Thai people seem weary of corruption in their government
Alex, Brighton, UK

But from early results published in the Thai media, it appears that Mr Thaksin is unlikely to claim the decisive mandate he needs to quell the ongoing crisis.

As he attended the Thai Rak Thai meeting on Monday, he hinted at compromise: "I am ready to accept any proposals on how to achieve national reconciliation.

"I don't want to make any comment about the strong 'no vote' in Bangkok. I already knew that was going to happen."

Soldier guards a polling station in the south
Voting was largely peaceful, except some small blasts in the south

Official results are not expected until later on Monday or even Tuesday, but according to unofficial figures by the often critical Nation newspaper, Thai Rak Thai candidates have been beaten by the number of "no votes" in at least 27 out of Bangkok's 36 constituencies.

The situation looks similar in the south of the country. According to Reuters news agency, election officials had to suspend vote counting in one constituency after the "no vote" tally filled up all the space on their counting forms.

Analysts predict that Thai Rak Thai candidates in Bangkok and the south will not be able to take office, because although they "won" the poll as sole candidates, they failed to get the minimum 20% of the vote needed to be eligible to be an MP.

This could lead to a political vacuum, because under the Thai constitution all 500 parliamentary seats must be filled for the lower house to convene.

Mr Thaksin is still popular in rural areas, however, and early results in the countryside show him achieving easy victories there.

But the overall results will do little to stop the regular anti-Thaksin protests by demonstrators who accuse him of abuse of power.

Sunday's election was largely peaceful, although three small bombs exploded near polling stations in the restive south, injuring at least five people.


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Voters in the polling booths in Thailand



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