Allies of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra appeared to emerge as victors in Thailand's post-coup election Sunday but failed to secure an absolute majority in parliament, according to unofficial results from the Election Commission.

With 80 percent of the vote counted, the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party won 230 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament, the Election Commission said. The rival Democrat Party won 161 seats.

PPP's head Samak Sundaravej told a news conference that Thaksin, who was said to be in Hong Kong, had telephoned after hearing the results.

"Thaksin said congratulations," Samak told a news conference, calling on "any political parties" to join PPP to form a coalition government.

Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006 but retains widespread popularity among the rural majority. PPP campaigned on a platform of bringing Thaksin back from exile in London and continuing his populist policies.

Full results were expected before midnight Sunday in an election billed as a return to democracy after 15 months of military-backed government.