Thai woman runs past graffiti at a public park Bangkok, Thailand Thursday, March 28, 2019. As Thais wait for official results of their general election, political parties led by one ousted from power in a military coup say they believe they have won enough seats to form the next government. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai Election Commission says junta party won popular vote

March 28, 2019 - 5:14 am

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's Election Commission said Thursday that 100 percent of the votes from the recent general election had been counted and a party allied with the ruling junta has won the most votes, though the results are not yet official.

In a surprise news conference, the commission did not say how many seats that would translate into for the Palang Pracharath party. The commission announced earlier that the main anti-junta party, Pheu Thai, had won the most constituency seats in Sunday's vote, the first since a 2014 military coup.

Both parties have said the results mean they have a mandate to form the next government

The Election Commission, appointed by the ruling junta's hand-picked legislature, has faced mounting pressure to speed up the vote count and to address widespread concerns about potential irregularities. In addition to being criticized on social media, the U.S., European Union, Australia and others had called for the commission to address such concerns.

The election was for 500 seats in the lower house. Of those, 350 seats are set aside for the winner of each constituency, while another 150 so-called party list seats are divided between parties based on a proportion of the overall vote.

Official results don't have to be announced until May and the commission has said the seat allocation could change as it investigates complaints and lawsuits in some constituencies.

Pheu Thai and several other parties announced Wednesday that they believed that had won a majority of seats in the lower house and should form the next government.

Even if the coalition does secure more than 250 lower house seats, it may not get to form the government due to the country's new political system.

Since the coup, the junta has used the absolute power it granted itself to go about rewriting the country's laws, including commissioning a new constitution and creating an electoral system that severely handicaps parties without links to the military.

Under the new rules, an unelected 250-member Senate appointed by the junta will join the 500 elected members of the lower house in a vote for prime minister, meaning a party without Senate support would have to get the support of 376 house members to ensure its choice becomes premier.

The vote for prime minister will likely take place sometime in May and Prayuth will have a considerable advantage.

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