by Ling Shuo
BANGKOK, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Thailand started its first by-elections of last month's general election in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday, to fill the three MPs (Member of Parliament) posts whose winners were disqualified by the Election Commission earlier.
Local television footage showed intense security were deployed for the by-elections.
Viravudh Songsai, chief of the Nakhon Ratchasima branch of the election commission, said earlier about 70 percent of eligible voters were expected to vote in the by-elections, slightly lower than the turnout achieved in the December 23 general election.
Unofficial results of Sunday's by-election are expected to come out at about 8:30 p.m. (1330 GMT).
The province's Constituency 3 was set to re-elect three MP posts after the election commission issued yellow cards to three candidates who had won during last month's general election for being involved in a vote-buying scam.
The three candidates, all from the People Power Party (PPP), are Boonlert Krudkhunthod, Linda Cherdchai and Prasert Chanruangthong.
In last month's general election, the PPP won a total of 233 ofthe 480 parliament seats, while the Democrat Party won 165, the Chart Thai party 37, Puea Pandin Party 24, Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana Party nine, Matchimathipataya Party seven and Pracharaj Party five.
However, the commission said it has got many reports of election fraud cases and it would rely on evidence to rule on how many red and yellow cards to be issued on electoral frauds.
According to the election law, a candidate who was issued with a red card will be disqualified in the by-elections, while a candidate with a yellow card still can re-contest the by-elections.
So far, a total of seven red cards and nine yellow cards have been issued to 16 candidates of the PPP, the Democrat Party, the Chart Thai Party and the Matchimathipataya Party.
A second by-elections was expected to be held on Jan. 20 and after two rounds of by-elections, the first parliament meeting is scheduled to be held on Jan 22.
However, the election commission now is still focusing on a suspected election fraud case on Yongyuth Tiyaphairat, the deputy leader of the PPP. The commission said if he is red-carded, his PPP may face dissolution.
Yongyuth is an executive of the PPP. According to the Thai Election Law, a party can be ordered dissolution if any of its executives was found election cheating.
Last week, the PPP said it is not afraid of lawsuits seeking its dissolution. Its deputy leader Chalerm Yoobamrung said the PPP can find a new party or set up a new party in time for its MPs (Members of Parliament) to join.
Local reports said that leading members of the PPP are eyeing the Palang Pandin Thai Party (Thai Land Power Party) if the PPP is dissolved. It is said if the PPP is dissolved for either breaking the election or party laws, its MPs would switch to join the Palang Pandin Thai Party.