The popular vote showed Palang Pracharat with 7.6 million votes, Pheu Thai with 7.2 million and Future Forward with almost 5.3 million.
After the poll the prime minister will be chosen by 500 elected MPs and 250 senators who are chosen by the...
Another 150 "party list" seats in the lower house will be allocated under a complex proportional representation formula.
BANGKOK-Thailand's first general election since a military coup five years ago was thrown into disarray on Monday, March 25, as two opposition parties alleged cheating and the election commission said it could be weeks until the make-up of parliament becomes clear.
"Under democracy, whoever wins, has the wish of the people, can form the government".
More than 33 million voters out of the 51 million eligible cast their ballots in the election.
This has been made worse by allegations of irregularities, with reports some polling stations had nearly twice as many votes as registered voters.
Kobsak Pootrakool, the party's spokesperson, told Al Jazeera the party had won the popular vote and was also in the process of building a coalition that would ensure it a majority in the lower house.
If correct, the projection would mean that Pheu Thai would not have enough votes to form a majority government in its hoped-for "democratic front" with other parties. Some questioned the overall turnout of less than 70 percent, which was much lower than expected.
"We want to see new things from new people, rather than the same old politicians talking about the same things", said a 32-year old who wanted to be named only by her nickname, Kob, for fear of repercussion from her government-linked employer.
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But preliminary figures showed Phalang Pracharat - with 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha as its candidate for prime minister - ahead in the popular vote.
The party, aligned with exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said it was also considering mounting a legal challenge over what it termed irregularities.
The official election results do not have to be declared until May 8.
"There will be uncertainty created by post-election coalition negotiations, potential recounts, disqualifications and constituency race reruns, and concerns over the legitimacy of the election", Mumford said.
Future Forward, which campaigned in support of democracy and to reform the military, did well in Bangkok and among younger voters. But they overreached themselves by nominating the Thai king's sister as their candidate for prime minister, and instead of gaining some royal luster, found themselves disgraced and dissolved.
"There are irregularities in this election that we're not comfortable with". The Election Commission had said on Monday it would announce the winners of the 350 constituencies at 4 p.m., after several delays in giving seat totals. Many took to social media to voice their suspicions about the results of an election which critics had said was skewed in favour of the military from the outset.
Questions are also being raised about the credibility of the vote and the next administration is likely to be unstable, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the head of Future Forward, said in a television interview on Monday.
The rules favor Prayuth, who leads the junta, staying in power, as parties supporting him require 126 seats in the Lower House to obtain the minimum 376 seats needed to control Parliament.
Speaking to reporters after casting his ballot, Prayuth said, "I hope everyone helps each other by going to vote today as it's everyone's right".
Sunday's election followed one of the longest periods of military rule in Thailand, which has a history of elections followed by coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
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