Cambodia ruling party declared winner in disputed elections

Elections commission hands long-standing leader victory as opposition holds rallies

A Buddhist monk takes picture with his phone during a demonstration Saturday at the Democracy Park in Phnom Penh
Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty

Cambodia's state election board has ratified the victory of incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party, rejecting opposition claims that the polls were unfair.

The results announced on state television Sunday morning handed 68 National Assembly seats to Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party and 55 to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Although the results have now been settled by the statement from the National Election Committee (NEC), it appears unlikely that it will signal an end to the political tension that has wracked the country since the contentious polls.

Hun Sen, 61, has ruled Cambodia for 28 years and remains firmly in control, although the opposition won significantly more seats than it had in the past.

The opposition had contested the outcome of the July 28 election, saying it would have won the majority of seats had the election been fair, but its legal challenges were rejected. It had threatened street protests and a boycott of the assembly unless until its demand for an independent probe of alleged election irregularities was met.

Hun Sen has a record of cracking down on the opposition after previous elections, but the surprising strength of the opposition, also reflected in a close popular vote, has raised speculation he may try to play the reform card this time around to placate critics and accommodate the public will.

Hun Sen's Information Minister and ruling party spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the exact date for opening the new assembly had not yet been set but it will be before Sept. 28. He ruled out a coalition government with the Cambodia National Rescue Party. His party is now drafting the policies to focus on reforms to help develop the country, he said.

"The Cambodian People's Party understands the message that the people expressed through their ballots for the need for the new government to undertake reforms," said Kanharith.

"We'll undertake thorough reforms for the sake of our country."

The new parliament is supposed to be seated within 60 days of the election.

Nearly 20,000 opposition supporters gathered Saturday in Cambodia's capital to cheer their leaders' demands for an investigation of what their leaders said was vote tampering and widespread voter disenfranchisement. The opposition vowed Sunday to continue its protests.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party would follow through with a protest plan announced at a rally on Saturday.

"We will not recognize any result proclaimed by the NEC," he said, adding it was "no surprise" the government-appointed election board would announce a victory for Hun Sen's party.

"We will continue to protest all over the country, not only in Phnom Penh. Protests will take the form of marches," he said.   

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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