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Thaksin Shinawatra’s candidate expected to win as provincial polls close

Provincial elections across Thailand ended on Sunday with the main spotlight cast on the contest in Chiang Mai.

The elections for the chairman and members of each provincial administration organisation (PAO) were the first in six years. Polling stations across the country closed at 5pm, with vote counting underway before officials send the results to the provincial office.

Election Commission chairman Itthiporn Boonprakong thanked all citizens who exercised their right to vote and said the poll-organising agency was satisfied with the overall situation. The EC has received 122 complaints from at least 40 provinces related to the poll.

The provincial elections are seen as a test of the popularity of all political parties almost two years after the general election held in March last year. The election of the Bangkok governor and Pattaya mayor will be held later but the date has not been set.

The vote in Chiang Mai has attracted keen interest across the nation.

The northern province drew attention because the election for PAO chairman there is a contest between two candidates who were once in the same camp loyal to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin and the Pheu Thai Party supported former senator Pichai Lertpongadisorn. His old friend Boonlert Buranupakorn, the incumbent president of the Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organisation in Chiang Mai and a former city mayor, ran with the support of red-shirt leader Chatuporn Promphan.

Thaksin and his sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sent open letters calling for voters in Chiang Mai to back Mr Pichai. Mr Chatuporn called for members of his United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship to cast their ballots for Mr Boonlert.

A Nida survey released after election polling stations closed showed the Thaksin-backed candidate with a substantial lead over Mr Boonlert.

The poll found 48.84% of voters supported Mr Pichai against 31.52% for his rival.

The National Institute of Development Administration conducted the survey between Tuesday and Saturday on 1,120 people in the northern province.

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