Protesters disrupt Thai general election

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BANGKOK -- Protesters seeking to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra disrupted Thailand's general election Sunday in what appeared to be a prelude to political upheaval.

The opposition forces, who represent a minority of Thais and are seeking to replace the country's elected government with an appointed council of technocrats, said they would challenge the election results in court while continuing to hold street demonstrations in Bangkok, the capital.

Protesters stopped the distribution of ballot boxes Sunday and pressed election officials to call off voting in a number of districts in Bangkok and in most of southern Thailand, the stronghold of the protest movement. Although there was no violence reported during voting hours, a battle in Bangkok on Saturday between would-be voters and gunmen allied with the protesters left at least seven people wounded and may have deterred many voters from participating.

One of those unable to vote Sunday was an election commissioner, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, whose polling place in Bangkok was shut down because protesters blocked the delivery of ballot boxes.

Furious Bangkok residents who were blocked from voting filed complaints at police stations, while protesters nearby -- many of them looking threatening with military-style clothing and covered faces -- blocked access to roads near polling places.

In a stark illustration of the divisions in Thailand, the election went smoothly in northern, central and eastern regions. Voting was successfully carried out in nearly 90 percent of the country's 375 electoral districts.

The disruptions were limited to Bangkok and the south. But the protesters' actions -- both Sunday and in the registration process leading up to the vote -- will force a series of smaller elections before any government can be formed, a process that will most likely take months.

The leader of the protests, Suthep Thaugsuban, who urged Thais to boycott the elections on the grounds that they would return Ms. Yingluck to power, said Sunday was the day "when you choose your side."

Among those who did not vote were television actors and actresses and middle- and upper-class Thais in Bangkok, who along with southerners form the core of the protesters. Rather than voting, protesters held what they called a "picnic" on the streets of central Bangkok that included live music and political speeches.

The protest movement includes many powerful Thais. But also significant Sunday was the list of high-profile Thais who voted, including the country's most senior military commanders. The protesters have pleaded with the military to intervene in the power struggle and help them carry out their seemingly quixotic plan for an unelected "people's council" that would replace parliament.

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