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THE WEEK AHEAD

BANGKOK : Thais Go to Polls

June 27, 1995

Thailand goes to the polls Sunday to elect a new Parliament in a test of the country's fledgling democracy. The government headed by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai was brought down by a corruption scandal in May, after serving two years and eight months--the longest ever by an elected civilian government in Bangkok.

Leekpai's Democrat Party was swept to power in September, 1992, following a bloody confrontation between Thailand's military and pro-democracy demonstrators. The clash marked the emergence of an affluent bloc of middle-class voters who now appear to hold the balance of power in Thai politics and have forced the military to give a pledge to remain aloof from politics.

While the current campaign has been marked by charges of vote-buying and other corruption, many observers say the election appears far freer than recent polls in neighboring Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, where victory by ruling parties is a foregone conclusion.

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