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Thailand votes in favour of military-backed constitution

Thailand has voted in a referendum to accept a new military-backed constitution that paves the way for a general election in 2017 but requires future governments to rule on the military’s terms.

The referendum is the first major popularity test for the junta led by Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister who has suppressed political activity during the two years since he seized power in a coup in 2014.

The 70% turnout fell short of the 80% the election commission had forecast, but it still far surpassed the 57% who voted in the country’s last referendum in 2007. Early results indicate 62% voted in favour of the constitution, with official results scheduled to be released on Wednesday.

By Sunday evening, the commission said the unofficial tally meant nearly 35 million of the 50 million eligible voters had cast their ballot at one of more than 95,000 polling stations.

Some Thais had voiced fears of vote-rigging or ballot-stuffing after a number of electoral monitors dropped out before the vote. The regional Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) ended up fielding just 11 unofficial observers to six of the country’s 76 provinces.

More details soon …

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