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Pro-Thaksin PPP Celebrates Victory in Thai Election

Allies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have declared victory in Thailand's first national election since last year's military coup.

PPP leader Samak Sundaravej says he is confident he will become Thailand's next prime minister because his party has won nearly half of the seats in Sunday election.

Samak said Mr. Thaksin phoned from exile to offer his congratulations. Samak said that, in his words, "the coup is dead."

Although a final count has not been announced, unofficial results based on more than 90 percent of the vote show the PPP winning 228 seats.

Because, Abhisit Vejjajiva, said his party is prepared to form its own coalition if the PPP cannot.

The United States welcomed what it called initial reports indicating the elections were free and fair and urged all parties to accept the results.

Thailand's military-ruled government banned Mr. Thaksin from politics for five years after it seized power in a coup last year, but the former prime minister remains a dominant figure in Thai politics.

Mr. Thaksin's supporters say he will return to Thailand early next year. Analysts say the prospect of his return is raising concerns about how the military will react.

Thailand's military-appointed interim parliament approved an internal security law on Friday that critics say allows the army to impose curfews, arrest anyone who is deemed a threat to internal security, conduct searches and censor communications.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.