Thais vote in first election since 2014 coup

Pro-Prayut party takes lead in Thailand's election

If the pro-military faction does take control of the new parliament, as most consider likely, operating under a democratic system may be a test for Prayut and the military, who are not used to having any political opposition while in power.

Palang Pracharat had almost half a million more votes than Pheu Thai, despite the track record of Thaksin whose parties have won every vote since 2001, drawing on loyalty from the rural and urban poor.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the anti-junta Future Forward party, which polled in a strong third place after scooping up first-time voters, said the party won't nominate him as a prime ministerial candidate to avoid a political deadlock.

Thailand's oldest political party, battered for years by Thaksin's political machine, took another beating as voters in its Bangkok and southern strongholds deserted it, apparently in favor of the junta party as the more viable Thaksin alternative.

Its leader resigned. No party is expected to win a majority but with most votes Palang Pracharat is likely to form a government.

The lower house and the upper house Senate, whose 250 members are appointed by the junta, will together select the next prime minister.

The party is a political vehicle of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister whose supporters have won every election since 2001.

Critics have said a new, junta-written electoral system gives a built-in advantage to pro-military parties and appears created to prevent the Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai Party from returning to power.

It then said it would reveal only the names of the winners of the 350 directly-elected constituency seats, having suspended allocations of the 150 seats available under the proportional party list system.

Thailand's ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, said on Monday that the ruling military junta "manipulated" the results of an election after a party of his loyalists did worse than expected.

There is confusion concerning the results of Thailand's first election since a military coup eight years ago.

Just over 65 percent of the 51 million registered voters cast their ballot, the commission said.

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The commission was also dealing with the case of 1,500 overseas votes from New Zealand, which it had failed to collect from customs in time.

Kobsak Pootrakool, the party's spokesperson, told Al Jazeera the party had won the popular vote and was also in the process of building a coalition that would ensure it a majority in the lower house.

The electoral body put voter turnout at over 65 percent - a figure critics said was too low and seemed to contradict pre-election polls and the long lines outside of polling stations.

"They have no shame, and they want to be in power no matter what".

This was followed by the military-backed Palang Pracharath party with 97 seats.

A statement from Prayuth's office said he thanked people for voting and officials for holding the election in an orderly fashion.

The cheating charges come on top of the judgment by many human rights and pro-democracy groups that the rules set by the junta made a fair election impossible. Leaders of political parties opposed to military rule urged a high turnout as the only way to derail Prayuth's plans.

The overall victor of Sunday's election, the first since a 2014 coup, may not emerge for weeks because the Election Commission has said it will announce the official results of the final 150 seats in the 500-seat parliament on May 9.

The EC has said it will finalize the results by May 9. "It's not good for Thailand".

Mr Thaksin added: "We accept that, okay, there may (have been) some kind of hope (that) the pro-democracy parties should (have) got more but it's less, but anyway the rigged election must be clarified by the ECT".

Another royal command in February torpedoed the candidacy of the king's elder sister Princess Ubolratana for prime minister of a party linked to Thaksin.

"People are trapped in this illusion of peace and stability portrayed by the military", he told Al Jazeera.

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