Jul 28, 2008,
Phnom Penh - The dominant Cambodian People's Party (CPP) extended its lead Monday after weekend national elections, claiming at least 90 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly - 64 more than its nearest rival, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).
At a press conference in the capital, the National Election Committee (NEC) issued preliminary vote counts in several provinces, which showed the SRP averaging around 25 per cent of the vote but the CPP commanding between 50 and 74 per cent.
Thousands of local and international election monitors attended, and the Russian delegation became the first to declare the elections free and fair Monday. Final results may take up to 10 days.
Some opposition parties have cried foul due to the high number of voters who were unable to find their names on the rolls and have demanded a re-vote in some seats, especially around the capital, but their demands do not seem to carry much weight with the NEC.
'This is a common request from losing parties after an election. It has never happened yet,' NEC official Im Soursdey said.
NEC figures showed that 75 per cent of eligible voters turned out to vote - up from 68 per cent for the 2007 commune elections - and analysts credited strong nationalist sentiment over alleged Thai military incursions around the northern temple of Preah Vihear.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said counting was ongoing but the CPP had good preliminary figures on which to base its estimate.
'At this stage, the CPP has 90 seats, the Sam Rainsy Party has 26, then Funcinpec has two, the Norodom Ranariddh Party two and the Human Rights Party three, but these are not final figures,' he said Monday.
The biggest loser was the royalist Funcinpec Party, the 1993 election winner which has since been in a tailspin despite sacking its disgraced former leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, last year.
Ranariddh, in exile in Kuala Lumpur after being found guilty of the private sale of Funcinpec's multimillion-dollar headquarters and sentenced to 18 months in jail in absentia, set up his own eponymous party.
Funcinpec spokesman Ork Socheat declined comment on the royalists' dismal showing, saying he was out of town.
Before Sunday's polls, the CPP held 73 seats, Funcinpec 26 and the Sam Rainsy Party 24.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to keep coalition partner Funcinpec and swore never to form an alliance with the Sam Rainsy Party although with such a resounding victory, his party has no need to collaborate with any party.
The monolithic CPP, led by Hun Sen and structured on a communist model, was always expected by analysts and the party's own pollsters to win handsomely, but the results surpassed expectations.
An estimated 8 million people were registered to vote in the first national elections in five years in the country of more than 14 million people. The CPP claims 5 million members.
Hun Sen has ruled for 23 years but is enjoying a new surge in popularity because of Cambodia's rapid economic growth, which the International Monetary Fund placed at around 10.5 per cent in 2007.