¡¡BANGKOK, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- An unprecedented high voter turnout in the absentee and advance voting over the weekend across Thailand have led election officials to believe in the nation's readiness to participate in the Dec. 23 general election one week away.
Almost 3 million of Thailand's 45 million eligible voters cast ballots in the absentee and advance voting during last Saturday and Sunday, the Election Commission (EC) revealed Monday.
For absentee voting, designed for eligible voters that would not be able to cast their ballots in respective home constituency on the general election date of Dec. 23, including Thai citizens living and working overseas, 87.77 percent, or 1.83 million ballots out of the registered 2.09 million voters have been cast on the past two days, Dec. 15 to Dec. 16, according to Election Commission member Prapun Naigowit.
That includes Thai expatriate voters who showed a turnout of 76.38 percent, almost double the votes cast in past elections with no more than 40 percent turnout, according to the Consular Department.
Another 1.12 million voters have turned out in their home constituency during the weekend to exercise their voting rights in advance one week before the Dec. 23 election.
Together it makes 2.95 million votes in total, an unprecedented high record in the country's election history for absentee and advance voting.
In the capital Bangkok, residence to 4.1 million eligible voters, nearly one-tenth of the country's total, people have displayed unprecedented enthusiasm for the voting.
For absentee voting, Bangkok recorded a turnout of 91 percent, the highest number since the introduction of absentee votes in 1997. Of 903,889 registered voters, 823,332 cast their absentee ballots.
For advance voting, 201,683 Bangkok residents, accounting for 4.91 percent of its eligible voters, cast their ballots last Saturday and Sunday. Bangkok ranked first both for absentee and advance balloting.
Judging from the weekend's outcome, city clerk Pongsakti Semsanpredicted a higher than ever turnout in Bangkok in the Dec. 23 election,
Bangkok voters are known for their reluctance in exercising their voting rights and in making decision on choosing a favorite political party or candidate before the last minute.
While in past elections, the turnout of Bangkok voters hovered around 60 percent, the number might be higher than 70 percent in the upcoming Sunday election.
Election Commissioner Praphan expressed satisfaction with the high voter turnout in the absentee voting, and reaffirmed that the general election will take place as scheduled next Sunday, Dec. 23.
Ballot boxes for absentee and advance voting would be dispatched under tight security for counting on Dec. 23.
The Dec. 23 general election will be the first for the country since it experienced a military coup on Sept. 19, 2006 which ousted twice-elected prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thai citizens are expected to vote for a favorite political party and candidate contesting for 480 parliament member seats of the House of Representatives.
A poll released earlier this month found out that nearly 50 percent of potential voters were still undecided on which party to vote for, though most recent surveys showed that the People Power Party (PPP), considered a nominee party for Thaksin, who remained in a self-exile since the coup and was banned from politics for five years after his Thai Rak Thai party was disbanded at a court verdict this May, is leading the race.
On Sunday, newspaper The Nation quoted PPP secretary-general Surapong Suebwonglee as saying that several factors would ensure a higher turnout in the advance and absentee voting than in the last election.
People were keen to vote because they wanted a return to democracy. Plus, after the government announced Dec. 24, a Monday, as an extra holiday, people came out to cast advance votes in order to go on vacation this weekend, said Surapong.
He also said he didn't know which party would benefit from the high turnout, but that he only hoped the voting process would be fair.
Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaraglin, the retired Army Chief who led the Sept. 19 coup, also said Monday he was satisfied with the high turnout, but he attributed it to the success of the awareness campaign against vote buying, which he was in charge of supervising.