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Pro-junta party takes lead in Thai election, results to come Mon.

A woman casts a ballor at a polling station in Udon Thani, Thailand, on March 24, 2019. (Kyodo)

BANGKOK (Kyodo) -- Thailand's pro-military Palang Pracharath Party that nominated junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha for prime minister took the lead late Sunday in the country's general election with around 90 percent of votes counted, according to the country's election authority.

    The National Election Commission announced in a press conference several hours after polls closed that an announcement of the unofficial results would be delayed until Monday afternoon.

    The opposition Pheu Thai Party, which was ousted from power in the country's 2014 coup, was leading in the count for most of the evening until being overtaken around 9:30 p.m.

    With 92 percent of votes counted, the Palang Pracharath Party had received around 7.5 million votes, while Pheu Thai was close behind with around 7 million votes, according to unofficial results.

    The Future Forward Party of businessman-turned-politician Thanathorn Joengrungruangkit was in third place with 5.2 million votes, and the Democrat Party came fourth with 3.2 million.

    Pheu Thai, which is linked to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, was earlier forecast to win the most seats in the election but fall short of a majority.

    Ballot counting started immediately after polling stations around the country closed at 5 p.m. in the Southeast Asian country's first election since the military seized power in the 2014 coup.

    Up for grabs are all 500 seats in the lower house of parliament, of which 350 seats are directly elected, with the remaining 150 seats to be allocated on a proportional party-list basis.

    Whichever party is announced the winner will need coalition partners to form a government.

    Late in the evening, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced his resignation as leader of the Democrat Party.

    "I am sorry for all Democrat supporters that we cannot achieve our goal and this election. I would resign from the party from now," he said.

    Jarungwit Phumma, secretary general of the Election Commission, told a press conference earlier in the day that voting was generally peaceful, with high enthusiasm seen among people coming out to vote. He added that a number of complaints had been filed with the commission, with most related to alleged vote-buying.

    Around 80 political parties are contesting the election, including many newly formed parties.

    Speaking to reporters after casting his ballot near his home in Bangkok in the morning, Prayut said he was encouraged by the voter enthusiasm and hoped for a high turnout.

    "I hope everybody will exercise their right to vote because everyone wants democracy, so we have to use the right method, which is a transparent election," he said.

    In Bangkok, Thanyaporn Munkong, 58, said she supports the party with good policies that elevate people's livelihoods. As stability and peace are priorities for her, she said she hoped to see Prayut remain in power.

    Suchada, a 28-year-old bank employee, said she has been waiting for the election for a long time as she wanted to see a new government setting the direction of the country.

    "I want the new government to resolve the economic recession causing difficulties among the people. Everything is expensive," she said.

    Maitree, a 70-year-old retired company employee, said he supports the Democrat Party as he admires former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, who is closely associated with "clean politics."

    Possawee Jindatham, a 28-year-old voter in Nonthaburi Province, said she wanted to see a change in the country as people have too long stuck with old-guard politicians.

    The junta initially promised in June 2014 that an election would be held around October 2015, but the date was subsequently pushed back several times.

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