Thai leader's share of vote falling under 50 percent

An unofficial tally Monday night by a TV station shows the party of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra receiving less than half the popular votes tallied so far in a national election, with 15 percent still uncounted. The count by the iTV television station said that as of 5 p.m. (1000 GMT) Monday, candidates for Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Thai Love Thai party had received 44.4 percent of the popular vote nationwide in Sunday's general election, with 85 percent of the vote counted.

Thaksin had vowed before the polls to step down if his party received less than 50 percent of the votes cast. A growing popular movement has been demanding his resignation because of alleged corruption and abuse of power. The iTV figures showed Thai Rak Thai with 12,468,904 votes of 28,084,686 counted so far.

The source of the TV station's figures was not clear, and the official Election Commission spokesman said they could not confirm the numbers. Earlier Monday, Thaksin said he was considering his options including stepping aside after preliminary results showed his party had technically won a virtually unopposed election but that a large number of voters rebuked him by abstaining. But he also said he was sure his party would receive at least half the vote.

Official results from Sunday's election were still far from complete, though preliminary figures from Bangkok more complete than from anywhere else in the country showed strong sentiment against Thaksin, with voters ticking the abstention option on their ballots outnumbering those supporting Thaksin's candidates in most areas.

"Let's talk again after the vote count is finished. If you ask why I'm speaking like this, I'm not saying that I'm going to stay or quit, but please help me find a way toward unity," Thaksin told reporters Monday. "I don't have to be prime minister, but I ask that there be unity in the country." Thaksin has made similar statements before, but this is the first time he publicly considered his options after the election, which he called three years early. Thaksin said he would address the nation on television Monday night, reports the AP.


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