BANGKOK -- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra claimed victory in elections yesterday in what appeared to be a widespread mandate for a second term, propelled by strong support from Thailand's rural poor and his adroit handling of the tsunami disaster.
One early exit poll showed Thaksin's ruling Thai Rak Thai party (Thais Love Thais) may have captured as many as 399 of the 500 contested seats in the House of Representatives. Another exit poll gave him 340 seats.
Thaksin's party won 248 seats in its 2001 election debut.
''The numbers are more than enough to establish a one-party government," Thaksin said, adding that he would ''wait for the final count for the exact numbers."
He also said that, ''to be polite," he would talk to current coalition partner, the Chart Thai party, about shaping a new government.
Opponents accuse Thaksin of seeking dictatorship through the ballot box.
One exit poll showed the Democrats winning 110 seats; another showed them with 80. Chart Thai and Mahachon parties were projected to win far fewer seats.
Democrat Party leader Banyat Bantadtan invited other opposition parties to join his group and act to check the new government.