Thailand’s general election has been disrupted by protests with voting being halted in parts of Bangkok and the south, but officials say that 89% of polling stations operated normally.
Some six million registered voters were affected by the closures, the Election Commission said.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called the vote to head off weeks of mass protests.
Her party is widely expected to win but legal challenges and a lack of a quorum of MPs may create a political limbo.
Security has been heavy throughout Thailand, with vast areas under a state of emergency.
“The situation overall is calm and we haven’t received any reports of violence this morning,” National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabutr told Reuters.
Security officials said about 130,000 personnel had been deployed across Thailand on Sunday, including 12,000 in Bangkok.
Thailand’s general election has been disrupted by protests with voting being halted in parts of Bangkok and the south
There has been little campaigning for the election and it was unclear how many Thais had turned out.
Yingluck Shinawatra, who won the last election in 2011, voted soon after polls opened near her Bangkok home.
Protests prevented voting from taking place in 438 of Bangkok’s 6,671 polling stations, and there was no voting at all in nine southern provinces.
The government said there was no disruption in the north and north-east of the country.
Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai party has overwhelming support in these regions, while the south and parts of the capital are strongholds of the opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the election.
Demonstrators blocked access to voters at some polling stations in the capital and prevented ballot papers reaching those polling stations.
Some voters expressed frustration when they found their local polling stations blocked.
Violent clashes involving anti-government protesters have erupted ahead of Sunday’s elections in Thai capital, Bangkok.
According to local media, several people have been injured by gunfire.
The violence erupted during a stand-off between supporters and opponents of PM Yingluck Shinawatra.
The shots were fired as demonstrators blockaded a building where ballot papers are being stored, in an attempt to prevent their distribution.
Protesters want the government replaced by an unelected “people’s council”.
The opposition has vowed to boycott Sunday’s poll, which is likely to be won by Yingluck Shinawatra.
The incident took place in Bangkok’s Laksi district, a stronghold of the prime minister’s Pheu Thai party.
Thai protesters want Yingluck Shinawatra’s government replaced by an unelected people’s council
A number of people could be seen lying injured on the road, as exchanges of gunfire continued, forcing reporters and passers-by to flee for cover.
It was not immediately clear whether those wounded were government supporters or opponents.
The protest movement has vowed to disrupt the election as much as possible, by preventing ballot papers from reaching polling stations.
The army earlier said it would increase the number of troops deployed in Bangkok for the polls on Sunday. Some 10,000 police will also patrol the streets.
The protests began in November, after the lower house backed a controversial amnesty bill that critics said would allow Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, to return.
Yingluck Shinawatra called early elections to quell the unrest, but demonstrators have vowed to block the poll from going ahead.
Correspondents say one election commissioner has predicted that 10% of polling stations will not be able to open at all on Sunday.
Because of disruption to candidate registration, the elections will also not deliver enough MPs for a quorum in parliament, meaning that by-elections will be needed before a government can be approved, extending the instability.
Thailand’s main opposition party has decided to boycott snap elections set for February 2, 2014.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told a news conference it would not be fielding candidates, saying: “Thai politics is at a failed stage.”
PM Yingluck Shinawatra called the election earlier this month in a bid to end weeks of mass protests.
The head of the Thai army has warned the country’s political divisions could “trigger a civil war”.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha has proposed a “people’s assembly” – made up of civilians from both sides, not the leaders, to heal the divisions.
The opposition-backed protests in Bangkok have caused Thailand’s most serious political turmoil since 2010.
Yingluck Shinawatra won the last elections in 2011, but protesters say her brother – the controversial ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra – remains in charge.
At his news conference, Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters his party had agreed it would not field candidates in the snap elections.
Thailand’s main opposition party has decided to boycott snap elections set for February
“The Thai people have lost their faith in the democratic system,” he said.
The prime minister dissolved parliament and called the election on December 9 in a bid, she said, to avoid violence on the streets and “to give back the power to the Thai people”.
Her Pheu Thai party has a majority in parliament, and draws significant support from Thailand’s rural areas. It is seen as well-placed to win February’s election.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he was deeply concerned by the latest crisis, with divisions not just in Bangkok but across the whole country.
“The situation could trigger a civil war,” he told the Bangkok Post.
Setting out his vision of a “people’s assembly”, he said it should be made up of people from both sides of the political divide – known as the “red shirts”, those who support Thaksin Shinawatra, and the “yellow shirts”, those who oppose him.
“It must be from a neutral group and comprise non-core representatives of all colors, and all color leaders must be excluded,” he said.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha did not give details on how or when the assembly would be set up, but said any proposal “must come from a public consensus and the public must brainstorm how to reach that consensus”.
He stressed his grouping would be different to the “people’s council” proposed by the opposition.
“The people’s assembly must not be organized or sponsored by any conflicting group, as it would not be accepted by the other side,” he said.
His comments came after a defense council meeting on Friday to discuss the February 2 election.
Defense spokesman Col Thanatip Sawangsaeng said the army “is ready to support the Election Commission in organizing the elections when asked”.