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Thailand to hold Senate elections Sunday

Thailand to hold Senate elections Sunday

Thailand's Election Commission was campaigning to boost voter turnout ahead of Sunday's poll to elect 76 new senators, an official said Saturday.
A representative will be elected for each of Thailand's 76 provinces Sunday in the first Senate election since a September 2006 military coup ousted elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned from exile Thursday.
Under a new constitution enacted last year, the 150-member Senate is divided between appointed and elected members. The previous 1997 constitution had made the upper house an all-elected body, but that charter was scrapped after the coup.
The coup makers ousted Thaksin for alleged corruption and abuse of power. After their takeover, they enacted several measures to limit the power of politicians, including changes to the constitution.
Earlier this month, 74 appointed members of Thailand's new Senate were endorsed by the Election Commission.
"We are trying to use various media channels to get people to come out and cast a vote for the rest of the senators," said Election Commission Secretary-General Sutthiphon Thaweechaikan. "From the poor turnout in advance voting, it appears that the public is weary of politics."
The Senate is empowered to remove Cabinet members, appoint and remove the commissioners of independent state organizations, and scrutinize laws passed by the lower house.
The election for the 480 members of the House of Representatives was held in December, with the largest number of seats won by the People's Power Party, which is allied to Thaksin. It now leads a six-party coalition government.
The poll comes three days after Thaksin returned to Thailand from 17 months in self-exile. His homecoming was widely seen as a return to the center of Thai politics despite the military's efforts to eradicate his legacy.
Thaksin has been banned from political activities for five years and therefore is not allowed to vote in Sunday's election.
Last year, a court disbanded his Thai Rak Thai party and barred Thaksin and 110 party executives from politics for five years for electoral fraud.