The dice will roll today in what is fast emerging as the great Thai political casino. And one of the most popular bets is on deepening confusion after one of the most unusual elections in the kingdom's political history. First to take a punt was Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He called the snap election for today amid intensifying protests among urban elites against his five-year rule. A clear victory, of course, offers the chance of a fresh mandate to use against the opponents who brand his Thai Rak Thai government as corrupt and dictatorial. Then the opposition Democrat Party upped the ante by deciding to boycott the election. This is possibly the biggest gamble of all. A boycott means Thailand's oldest political party and a powerful voice for reform risks years in the wilderness without any MPs in Parliament should Mr Thaksin prevail. Also bellying up to the table are the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets in recent weeks. Bangkok elites such as academics, lawyers and doctors have been joined by southerners and a variety of groups warning against privatisation, free trade and foreign investment. The recent tax-free sale by Mr Thaksin's family of the Shin Corp telecommunication giant he founded fanned the flames of discontent. In recent days, protesters have demanded intervention from the popular monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Seasoned analysts also see this as a risky gamble, sensing it is highly unlikely that the king - about to celebrate 60 years on the throne - would move too quickly against a prime minister who remains popular in the countryside and has won two elections so far. On the surface, it may seem Mr Thaksin has the least to lose, standing as an uncontested candidate. Unfortunately, the odds on that score are far from clear. When the Democrats announced the boycott - joined by other major opposition groups - they created a whole host of difficulties for Mr Thaksin in the days after today's poll. In fact, Thailand now faces the prospect of a possible constitutional crisis over the coming weeks - and one quite different to any previous drama in its violent, coup-plagued past. 'We did not set out to destroy the election,' Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told the Sunday Morning Post. 'We simply felt we did not want to be involved with such an unfair election. But certainly one result of the move is to increase the pressure on Mr Thaksin. He is the one taking the risk.' Those risks stem from the election rules. In short, all 500 parliamentary seats must be filled for a party to form a government and decide on a prime minister. And at least 20 per cent of the eligible voters must turn out in each district for a winner to be declared. Opposition activists and protest groups have been taking to the hustings to drive home a campaign for people to cast official no-votes. The ploy is expected to be particularly successful in Bangkok and Thailand's south, a poor Muslim area where Mr Thaksin has struggled to deal with worsening violence. Then there is also the problem with the 100 seats that must be filled through a proportional party-list system. Mr Thaksin has only 99 candidates on his list after one dropped out to become a monk and a replacement could not be legally found in time. In all, latest estimates suggest as many as 100 Thai Rak Thai candidates will struggle to win legitimately. All these questions must be sorted out by the Election Commission, an independent body treated with suspicion by Mr Thaksin's opponents. They have 30 days to arrange re-votes or by-elections in problem districts. Above the commission, there is always the Constitutional Court. This independent body ruled narrowly in favour of allowing Mr Thaksin to take office in 2001 after a claim that he had illegally concealed his vast wealth. 'Given the tensions of recent weeks, our fear is that none of this is going to be sorted out easily,' one Asian diplomat said yesterday. 'It is going to take the spin job of Thaksin's life to smoothly form a legitimate government and quell the protests.' If everything is still too messy, there is still Article 7 of the constitution. A provision that is cryptic at best, it ultimately allows for the king to intervene to form an interim government to end a constitutional impasse. With each passing day, the odds on that particular move will start to shorten. Despite the tension, Bangkok was quiet yesterday. Protesters were off the streets and all political coverage stopped at 6pm when alcohol sales also stopped for 24 hours. And as sobering as today is expected to be, the nation will still wake to a heavy political hangover come tomorrow morning.