Thailand is holding election re-runs in some of the provinces where voting in a February 2 election was disrupted by opposition protests. When complete, the polls could provide a mandate for a new government.
Thai officials said polls opened peacefully in five Thai provinces on Sunday for the re-runs, made necessary because of disruption to voting in last month's ballot.
"The polls are going peacefully - everything is under control and there are no problems, " election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn told the AFP news agency.
Opposition demonstrators prevented 10,000 polling stations from opening at the February 2 vote, stopping millions of voters from casting their ballots. The Election Commission said 18 percent of constituencies were affected. Voting remains to be completed in 18 of 77 provinces.
The disruptions meant that the election winner, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, was unable to form a new government under Thai electoral law, which requires 95 percent of the 500 seats in the lower house of parliament to be filled.
Yingluck, who called the February election amid widespread protests calling for her resignation, has since remained in a caretaker role with limited policymaking powers.
The Election Commission said the re-run polls in all the affected provinces would likely take until April, with results to be announced only after they have been completed.
Ongoing political unrest
The final result is almost certain to see Yingluck confirmed in office, something anti-government protesters are unlikely to accept, leading to a continuation of the political divisions that have wracked the country for some eight years.
Protesters claim Yingluck is a mere puppet of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as premier in a bloodless military coup in 2006 amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
After setting up protest sites at key intersections across Bangkok for weeks in a bid to "shut down" the capital, demonstrators have begun moving the focus of their operations to Lumpini Park in the center of the city following a spate of deadly attacks on rallies.
However, the opposition insists it will continue its struggle to end the influence of Thaksin's billionaire family on Thai politics. It is calling for the appointment of an unelected "people's council" to oversee changes to electoral and constitutional law before new elections take place.
Yingluck is also facing a number of legal challenges to her government, including charges of negligence over a controversial rice subsidy scheme that could see her removed from power.
tj/pfd (AFP, Reuters)