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Military-Backed Party Leads in Thai Elections

Thais waited Monday for the results of an election called a return to democratic rule, but which has been widely criticized as an exercise designed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha to entrench his military’s stranglehold on power.

Preliminary official results released late Sunday showed that with 93 percent of ballots counted the military-backed Phalang Pracharat party was in the lead with about 7.6 million votes, that’s short of what would be needed for a majority in parliament.

In second place was the Pheu Thai party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra with 7.1 million votes.

The campaign was marred by allegations of vote buying, however, complaints were few on polling day with election observers from Australia, Canada, the United States and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations on hand.

Security was tight and opinions were mixed as about 52 million Thais voted. But the long shadow of the military is still having an impact, and most of those willing to express an opinion declined to be identified.

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