A pro-military political party in Thailand has taken an unexpected lead in the nation's first election since the Army took power five years ago.
With more than 90% of the votes cast, the Palang Pracha Rath Party won 7.6 million votes ̵
Pheu Thai is associated with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose loyalists have won all elections since 2001.
The announcement of official results has been postponed until Monday.
However, it seems more likely that the pro-military party will be able to form a government under the current leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup, which included Mr. Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra , sales 2014.
The preliminary result is unexpected, with the Palang Pracha Rath Party (PPRP) initially being hinted at by many third parties.
- A Guide to Elections Following the Putsch in Thailand
- Tuning into Hybrid Democracy in Thailand
More than 50 million people were eligible to vote, but voter turnout was only 64% according to AFP reports.
Thailand has been plagued by political instability for years. After the seizure of power, the army promised the restoration of order and democracy, but has repeatedly postponed the vote.
On the eve of the election, Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a statement during the election process calling for "peace and order".
The statement, which was broadcast on national television on Saturday night, called on voters to "support the good people".
What is the background?
The election was seen primarily as a contest between pro-military parties and allies of Mr. Thaksin.
He was overthrown in a coup in 2006 and lives in exile to avoid a conviction for abuse of power. However, he still has a significant following, mainly among rural and less prosperous voters.
Gen Prayuth was nominated as the sole candidate of the PM's newly formed pro-military PPRP.
Prominent parties include the Democrats, led by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the new Future Forward party, led by A Young Telecommunications Billionaire, Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit.
At the time of the coup, the military said it wanted to restore order and stability and prevent the street protests that have erupted over the years.
However, the junta has been accused of being authoritarian, rigorously controlling the media and arbitrarily enforcing laws such as Majestic Violence, which prohibit any criticism from the military to silence opponents.
A referendum-approved constitution was also introduced, which critics say would remain central to Thai politics.
On Sunday, 500 members of the lower house would have voted. However, under the constitution, a 250-seat Senate was appointed by the military.
The two houses jointly elect a prime minister – a candidate only needs half the votes plus one to win.
The military's preferred candidate – General Prayuth – would theoretically need only 126 lower House votes to take office. The ruling party or coalition may also appoint a non-deputy prime minister.
The new constitution also limits the number of seats a party can take, regardless of the number of votes won, and each future government is constitutionally committed to following the military's 20-year plan for Thailand.
Preliminary unofficial results will come within hours, but the correspondents say it will take a while for the future direction of Thailand to become clear as the parties negotiate agreements and coalitions.