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Thaksin vows to return from exile

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  • Thaksin vows to return to Thailand to face corruption charges
  • People Power Party leader Samak Sundaravej to form new government
  • PPP pledges to change the constitution to allow Thaksin's return
  • Thaksin says he will not resume his career in politics
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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra won nearly half the seats in the lower house of parliament, making them the clear favorites to lead a new government, according to official results, Thailand's election commission announced Tuesday.

Thaksin addresses a press conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

According to Apichart Sukakanon, chairman of Election Commission of Thailand, the People Power Party captured 233 of 480 seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections, followed by the military-backed Democrat Party with 165 seats. The results will be ratified on Jan. 4.

Earlier on Tuesday, Thaksin said he would return from exile early next year and face corruption charges against him.

Thaksin told a news conference in Hong Kong that he hoped to return by February 14 -- St. Valentine's Day -- or April at the latest after Thailand's new government is in place.

Thaksin was deposed by a military junta in September 2006 and fled to London.

People Power Party leader Samak Sundaravej said a new parliament controlled by the PPP would put in place an amnesty to allow Thaksin's return and amend the constitution to allow Thaksin to eventually return to politics.

Nevertheless, the Associated Press reported that Thaksin was adamant he would not return to politics.

"I am quitting politics, I am not going back to politics. I will not take any political position except when they want any ideas," the AP reported him as saying.

However he later indicated that he could change his mind if the situation in Thailand changed.

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"I have no wish to go back to politics until I feel safe, and then I will have to assess the situation," AP reported

Samak is expected to be the next prime minister once he pulls together a coalition of parties that would give the PPP a majority of seats in parliament.

The military junta that took over the government after ousting Thaksin banned his Thai Rak Thai (Thai Love Thais) party and made other changes to the constitution, but promised a return to civilian government.

With 96 percent of the vote counted on Monday, Suthiphon Thaveechayagarn, the head of Thailand's election commission, said that the PPP was on pace to win 232 seats in the 480-seat chamber.

Samak moved quickly to establish a coalition, telling CNN in a phone interview that at least two other political parties had agreed to join the PPP. He declined to name the other parties involved.

The Democrat party, the movement backed by the military, was second with a projected 165 seats in parliament.

Thaksin, speaking in Hong Kong, said he would not return to politics after his return to Thailand. He said that he and his family had "suffered enough" but that he wanted to face the charges against him and prove his innocence.

He congratulated the PPP for "bringing back democracy" to Thailand and said that December 23, the date of the elections, should be known as a "reconciliation day."

While dozens of political parties were competing, the race came down to two fundamental choices: candidates backed by the army and its interim government, and those who support Thaksin, a 58-year-old telecommunications tycoon who owns the English Premier League Manchester City Football Club.

Thaksin's party won two landslide victories before he was deposed.

Samak, like Thaksin, has tapped into the kingdom's rural poor, many of whom feel left out of Thailand's rapid development.

"The rural majority have been awakened," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. "This is the real silent majority, and they are not going back to sleep. They will vote for Thai Rak Thai again, under a different name this time: the People Power Party."

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About 5,000 candidates from more than three dozen parties vied for the 480 seats in the parliament's lower house. In most cases, their names didn't appear on the ballot; voters had to remember them by assigned numbers.

The Election Commission is expected to look into fraud and irregularities cases on Tuesday. The lower house must open within 30 days after the election day -- January 22. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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