Thailand To Hold First General Election Since 2014 Coup
On Sunday, voters in Thailand will choose members of the lower house of parliament.
The general election comes after several delays. It will be the first since the country's military seized power in 2014.
Thousands of candidates are competing for 350 directly elected seats in the lower house. Another 150 are decided through a complex system of proportional representation.
Observers say one of the major issues voters are considering is whether to support the continuation of military rule. But no matter what candidates are elected, the military is likely to keep much of its political power.
That is partly because Thailand's military strongly influenced the writing of the constitution that was accepted in 2017. The constitution gives the military power to appoint all 250 members in parliament's upper house. The constitution also limits the number of lower house members of parliament voters can elect directly.
The process is expected to lessen the influence of large parties. Instead, many smaller parties are expected to gain power and form a coalition government.
Observers say Thais' interest in the election is unusually high. About 75 percent of those registered to vote are expected to do so, says Aim Sinpeng. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.
Thailand's Election Commission reports that over 86 percent of registered early voters have already made their choices.
In addition to the military question, voters are expected to consider economic conditions and growing inequality between rich and poor.
The Associated Press has identified some of the important voting groups. They include struggling farmers and workers, who usually vote for candidates who promise financial help. Young people are also, in general, seeking better jobs and financial gains.
On the other hand, powerful business interests and wealthy families usually want political stability. People connected to the military are also likely to want to keep things the same.
And middle class voters in Bangkok have divided interests. They would like to see reforms in education, government and other areas. But they also want peace and order, says historian Chris Baker, who wrote a book on Thailand.
Official election results are expected by May 9.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.