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Pro-military party won most votes in Thai election - EC

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Leader of the pro-junta political party Palang Pracharath, Uttama Savanayana, greets the media at the Palang Pracharath Party headquarters in Bangkok.The pro-junta party won 8.4 million votes, while the Pheu Thai party linked to exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra came in second with 7.9 million votes, the Election Commission said.

[BANGKOK] Thailand's pro-military party won the most votes in Sunday's election, authorities confirmed on Thursday, bolstering its claim to legitimacy as it competes with an anti-junta alliance to form a government.

The pro-junta Palang Pracharath party won 8.4 million votes, while the Pheu Thai party linked to exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra came in second with 7.9 million votes, the Election Commission said. Pheu Thai said Wednesday it formed a seven-party coalition that unofficially would have 255 seats in the 500-member lower house, a claim rejected by the military's proxies.

The power struggle could drag on for weeks or months, as the Election Commission has said it has until May 9 - after the coronation ceremony of King Maha Vajiralongkorn - to issue final results before a vote occurs in parliament. The Election Commission is also investigating complaints that could result in changes to seat allocations.

The early results suggest that any coalition that emerges is likely to be weak and unstable, making it difficult to pass legislation. Both larger groups would need to rely on a range of smaller regional parties to push through key policies.

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The prime minister will be selected in a joint vote of the lower house and a 250-strong junta-appointed Senate that's expected to back junta chief and current prime minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

Pheu Thai only contested about about two-thirds of constituencies up for grabs after one of its allied parties was banned in the run-up to the election. Palang Pracharath won fewer constituencies but benefited from having candidates across Thailand, allowing it to gain more votes.

"We're in talks with several parties, and we'll form a coalition as big as we can," Uttama Savanayana, who leads the pro-junta party, told reporters on Wednesday. "We believe that popular vote reflects what people want."

Sudarat Keyuraphan, a prime ministerial candidate for Pheu Thai, said at an earlier briefing that it would form a government "because that's how people voted."

"You can't expect a gold medal when you came in second place," she later wrote on her Facebook page.

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