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Thai junta holds onto lead as nation awaits election results

AFP
Bangkok
Results of Thailand’s first election since the 2014 coup were expected to trickle out Monday, with the junta primed to retain its grip on power after a vote that saw its main rival diminished, but vaulted a new pro-democracy force into the kingdom’s politics.
The Election Commission delayed without explanation a full announcement of preliminary results on Sunday night as a blizzard of complaints mounted over apparent mistakes in the count and possible irregularities at the polls.
Nearly 1.9 million votes had been invalidated with 93 percent of votes tallied, the EC said late Sunday. Earlier counts showed that in a handful of provinces more than half the ballots cast were invalidated. Sunday’s election -- seen as a referendum on the military -- was held under new rules written by the junta to ease its transformation into a civilian government.
Despite that headstart, analysts had not expected the army-linked Phalang Pracharat party to win the popular vote, given anger at junta rule and the enduring popularity of Pheu Thai -- the party of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
But as initial figures dribbled out, Phalang Pracharat -- with 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha as its candidate for prime minister -- edged into a clear lead, racking up more than 7.6 million votes with more than 90 percent of ballots tallied.

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