Voters in Thailand have been to the polls in highly contentious elections. Whatever the outcome, it is unlikely to quell the political tensions that are causing violent turmoil in the country.
Thai voters went to the polls on Sunday in elections carried out under high security after violent street protests in the preceding weeks threw the country into turmoil.
Although voting proceeded peacefully in most areas around the country, protesters opposed to the election forced a number of polling stations to close or even prevented them from opening.
Officials say that 488 of the 6,600 polling stations in the capital, Bangkok, were shut down amid a number of skirmishes between would-be voters and anti-election protesters.
The Election Commission said voting at hundreds of polling stations in the south - where the Thai opposition is strongest - were also disrupted.
The election came a day after gun battles in Bangkok left seven people wounded. At least ten people have been killed and hundreds injured in violence since opposition rallies against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra began several weeks ago.
Protesters accuse the government of corruption, and say Yingluck is a puppet of her billionaire brother Thaksin, who was ousted as premier by royalist generals in 2006.
Results of the election are not to be announced on Sunday. Further voting is already scheduled for February 23 after advance voting last Sunday was disrupted.
Yingluck's Puea Thai Party is widely expected to win the election, which she called in December in a bid to mollify anti-government protesters.
Continued political unrest
However,the result will almost certainly be inconclusive. Because protesters blocked candidate registration in some districts, parliament will not have enough members to convene, meaning that Yingluck will be unable to form a government.
It is thus likely that Thailand will be stuck in political limbo for some time to come while by-elections are run in constituencies. Observers fear a continuation of the political violence that has plagued the nation since Thaksin's ouster.
The vote was boycotted by the main opposition Democratic Party, and the Election Commission had argued for its postponement.
tj/ccp (AP, Reuters, AFP)