Thailand votes in general election hinh anh 1A Thai voter casts her ballot in the country's general election on March 24 (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Bangkok (VNA) – Voting is underway in the general election in Thailand on March 24 with over 50 million people eligible to cast votes.

Up to 92,320 polling stations served the general election, the first since the military coup in 2014, starting from 8:00 to 17:00. Preliminary unofficial results are expected to be announced at 20:00 the same day.

A total of 81 parties are contesting the election, and thousands of candidates will vie for 350 constituencies. The other 150 members of the House of Representatives will be elected from the national party lists under a system of proportional representation.

Under the new electoral system, having the most number of MPs in the 500-seat House of Representatives may not be enough to win the premiership. Thailand’s new Constitution empowers 250 military-backed senators to join 500 MPs in selecting the prime minister during the initial period.

Prominent candidates include Sudarat Keyuraphan from the Pheu Thai party; former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the Democrats; and a young telecoms billionaire, Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit, from the new Future Forward party. Notably, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the military coup in 2014, has been nominated as the only prime ministerial candidate of the newly formed pro-military Palang Pracha Rath Party.

A 24-hour alcohol ban began 6 pm on March 23 due to the election.

A representative from the Election Commission of Thailand said a group representing foreign countries and international organisations is observing the election. The group includes those from foreign embassies in Bangkok, such as that of Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, the Republic of Korea, and Vietnam.-VNA