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“I think that a good leader has to show responsibility,” he said, explaining why he decided to step down.

Joining the Democrats in opposition will be the Rak Thailand — Love Thailand — Party of former massage parlor tycoon Chuvit Kamolvisit, whose tough-talking, anti-corruption campaign garnered four seats.

Ms. Yingluck said her coalition would be joined by Chart Thai Pattana, with 19 seats in preliminary results; Chart Pattana Puea Pandin, with 7 seats; Palang Chon, 7; and Mahachon, 1.

In Dubai, Mr. Thaksin hailed the election result. “The Thai people spoke,” he said. “They told the world, the whole country … (that) the last five years, the country has gone nowhere.

“It’s very clear,” he said of those who cast ballots, “that they want to see reconciliation in the country, the end of the conflict … it will be a big challenge for Pheu Thai.”

Mr. Thaksin, who became a billionaire in telecommunications before entering politics, was convicted of graft and lives in exile to escape a two-year prison sentence. Mr. Thaksin says the charges are politically motivated.

Mr. Thaksin said he would stay in Dubai for the time being “doing business,” and if his sister’s party needs advice, he will give it. “If they don’t need, I don’t have to worry. The Thai people will be in good hands.”

Asked about his return to politics, Mr. Thaksin said, “I may be too old … I really want to retire.”

Whatever his plans, Mr. Thaksin will continue to be at the center of Thai politics for the foreseeable future.

“In all likelihood, the immediate aftermath of the election is going to be more about Thaksin,” Mr. Hewison said. “The group who designate themselves ‘the people who hate Thaksin‘ are going to be hard at work. The Democrat Party has made it clear that opposing Thaksin is their main task. They will be joined by those who have opposed Thaksin since 2005.

“For Pheu Thai, much now depends on Thaksin being less aggressive and headstrong than he has been in the past. Has he learned to be more patient?”

Associated Press writers Todd Pitman, Sinfah Tunsarawuth and Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok and Michael Casey in Dubai contributed to this report.