From Thailand’s northern Shan Hills to its southern floodplains, last-minute vote canvassing in the kingdom ceased at 6pm on Saturday as its 69 million people readied themselves for a general election that analysts believe will be nothing short of a political roller-coaster ride. As part of “cooling-off measures” before Sunday’s vote, candidates were required to mute all forms of campaign activities. A 24-hour nationwide alcohol ban will also be in place until an hour after polling booths close at 5pm Sunday. Thai election a battle royale for junta’s Prayuth and the Shinawatras Rival factions had held their last major rallies on Friday night in the capital Bangkok. King Maha Vajiralongkorn – overseeing his first general election as constitutional monarch – meanwhile issued a statement late on Saturday urging voters to pick “good people” as their elected representatives. The country’s commentariat took the lull in electioneering to dish out hard truths on what they believe will follow the country’s sixth election in two decades. “Sunday’s general election, will, at best return Thailand to a semi-democratic system no matter the results, even with voter euphoria expected to translate into a high turnout,” wrote Pravit Rojanaphruk, a prominent local political columnist. That was the consensus call among observers taking into account the fact that in the last two decades, the country has gone to the polls five times, each time with the promise that a fresh mandate from the people will end the country’s political strife. Each time that did not materialise. Instead, of the five elections – all were won by the rural-backed bloc of pluto-populist Thaksin Shinawatra – only one administration served out an entire term. Thaksin, loathed by the establishment for his unabashed populism, was ousted in a 2006 coup and his sister Yingluck was prime minister when the military again moved in to seize power in 2014. Thai election: any policy you like, as long as it’s Thaksinomics Under new election rules written by the junta led by Prayuth Chan-ocha – who is seeking to become a democratically elected prime minister – there is a high hurdle for the siblings’ bloc to resume civilian rule over the country. A military-appointed, 250-seat Senate will have a hand in deciding who becomes prime minister, meaning the preferred premier of the Shinawatra faction is unlikely to be picked even if they win the election. Instead, Prayuth could stay in his current job even if his political proxy, the Palang Pracharat Party formed by his lieutenants, wins just 25 per cent of the 500 parliament seats on offer. A pre-election survey by Thailand’s Nation Media group had Pheu Thai forecast to win 136 seats from 350 constituency wards, the anti-Shinawatra Democrat Party conquering 88 and Prayuth’s Palang Pracharat winning 62 seats. Of the 500 parliament seats, 150 party list seats will be distributed according to the popular vote of parties. The Future Forward Party viewed as aligned with Pheu Thai is projected to win a sizeable number of party list seats owing to its popularity among millennial voters drawn in by the charisma of party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit . Independent political analyst David Streckfuss, writing in The New York Times on Saturday, said based on conversations in recent weeks with leaders of ‘pro-democracy’ parties – a term used to describe anti-junta parties – there was cautious optimism that their bloc could take a majority of the 500 parliament seats. “But even if they win, they could be relegated to being, curiously a kind of majority opposition,” Streckfuss wrote. Thai princess Ubolratana attends wedding of Thaksin’s daughter in Hong Kong Aside from number-crunching, the country’s attention has also been on the multiple sideshows that are commonplace in the chaotic world of Thai politics. One of them was the glitzy wedding of Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn “Ing” Shinawatra in Hong Kong on Friday. Held at the ultra-luxurious Rosewood Hong Kong, guests included the former Singaporean foreign minister George Yeo, prominent American writer Tom Plate and members of Thai high society. If the splendour of the event – live streamed by Thai news outlets – and the timing of it was not enough to set tongues wagging, the presence of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya at the event would have. The popular princess’s bid to be the prime ministerial candidate of one of the Shinawatra camp’s parties was spectacularly shot down by her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn last month. But by being at the wedding, the princess had “staged a clear calculated act of defiance against the junta and her brother Vajiralongkorn,” said Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a long-time Thai politics observer and one of the military government’s arch critics. Defiance was also evident in the wedding speech by Thaksin, who is on self-exile from his country to escape criminal convictions he claims are trumped up. The banquet was held in Hong Kong so he could attend it. He told guests his bloc “will win for sure”. “Thailand is longing for the election. It is time for the Thai people who have been wanting to see freedom, wanting to see the economy prosperous again, wanting to see confidence from investors,” he said to his VIP guests, many who had made the quick trip to Hong Kong for the wedding before flying back home to vote. Pravit, the award-winning journalist, urged against seeing Sunday’s election as a panacea for the country’s woes. ‘We’re too close to China’: is Thailand about to ‘do a Mahathir’? The real problem, he and others say, is the near-constant disruption the military have dealt on democracy by way of coups. Already there is talk that the current army chief Apirat Kongsompong may stage a coup if the post-election political environment is hostile towards the military. “Thailand risks being permanently trapped in the vicious cycle of coups and junta rule, followed by elected governments and paralysing political crises, followed by more coups if nothing is done to send the soldiers back to the barracks for good,” wrote Pravit. Some 93,200 polling stations nationwide will be open from 8am to 5pm on Sunday. The election commission has said 95 per cent of the results involving the 350 constituency seats will be available by 8pm. Complete results will not be released until after the May coronation of King Vajiralongkorn.