July 28, 2008
Ruling party set to return
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party on Sunday claimed victory in polls overshadowed by a military standoff with Thailand, setting the stage for him to extend his 23-year grip on power, reported AFP.
"We won the election," party spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP, citing tallies by their supporters. "We are leading in most of the provinces." He added that the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) was not yet sure of its margin of victory, as ballots were still being counted.
The initial vote count showed the CPP was leading with more than two-thirds of the vote in three provinces, election officials said on national television. Final official results were not expected until next month.
Hun Sen had been widely tipped to win due to a booming economy that has helped improve the quality of life in one of the world's poorest nations, and due to nationalist sentiment sparked by the border feud with Thailand, analysts said.
Khieu Kanharith had earlier predicted the party would win 80 of the 123 seats in parliament, just shy of a two-thirds majority, as the party siphoned away votes from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and royalist Funcinpec.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy called for a re-vote in Phnom Penh, alleging 200,000 people there could not vote on Sunday after their names were lost from registration lists.
"Neither party won more than two-thirds of the seats," he told reporters, estimating that no party had received more than 70 seats, according to a tally by his supporters.
Election monitors, however, dismissed his claim of vote-rigging and said voting had proceeded smoothly overall.
Voters in the capital started lining up at dawn to cast ballots, with many saying their overriding concern was the territorial dispute with Thailand, centred on the ancient Preah Vihear temple.
About 17,000 domestic and international observers monitored the voting at more than 15,000 polling stations. More than eight million people were registered to vote.
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