THAILAND - Defying growing pressure from anti-government protesters, Thailand's ruling Puea Thai party on Saturday began campaigning and rallying support for snap polls on Feb 2.
The party held rallies in its strongholds in north and northeast Thailand, as well as a province just outside Bangkok - a move aimed at avoiding confrontations with anti-government protesters camped out in the capital since late October.
In Muang Thong Thani district just outside Bangkok on Saturday evening, Puea Thai candidates took to the stage amid cheers from supporters who want the polls to proceed.
Ms Boonlueng Kongpermwong, 57, a Puea Thai supporter, told The Sunday Times: "This is important for Thailand's democracy."
Anti-government protesters have been trying to disrupt election proceedings since caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the House of Representatives, the lower legislative chamber, on Dec 9.
They argue that an election on Feb 2 would only return the Puea Thai to power and reinstate the current political order dominated by the network of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Ms Yingluck's brother.
Thaksin, who helmed Thailand from 2001 to 2006, is reviled by the country's conservative elite and urban middle class for what they see as populist policies aimed at buying the loyalty of its rural masses.
He was deposed in a military coup in 2006 but is still deemed to be controlling the government through his sister.
The protesters are demanding that Ms Yingluck step down to make way for an unelected "people's council" that will implement political reforms before any elections are held.