SINGAPORE (Mar 25): To vote is to exist — reads a banner at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, as Thais head for the polls on March 24. The general election in Thailand is the country’s first since a 2014 military coup that ousted former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Almost 90% of those who registered for advanced voting on March 17 had turned up at the ballot box, compared with a 55% turnout for early voting in the 2011 election.

Thailand has grappled with crippling political turmoil since Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled in an earlier military coup, in 2006, after winning his second term as prime minister. But even in self-exile, Thaksin remains an influential and divisive figure in Thai politics. Pro-Thaksin rural farmers credit him and his allies for boosting income for the poor, while the anti-Thaksin royalist and military establishment accuse the group of corruption.

To up the ante, the Kingdom will this year see its first royal succession in seven decades. The new king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, will be crowned in a coronation ceremony in early May — just days before the results of the general election are scheduled to be announced on May 9.

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