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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Countdown to victory?

Countdown to victory?

Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party has claimed victory in national elections that will allow the Kingdom's dominant political machine to govern alone, ending 15 years of coalition agreements.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the party had won 91 of the National Assembly's 123 seats, an increase of 18 seats.

"It is a victory for the CPP because the people have believed in us," he told the Post on Monday as votes continued to be counted.

"We hope that the number of seats will continue to increase," he said, adding that the CPP would still consider a coalition government with one of the opposition parties.

Khieu Kanharith said the CPP's nearest competitor, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, had claimed 26 seats up from 24. The CPP's former coalition government partner, the royalist Funcinpec, lost power dramatically, according to Khieu Kanharith's unofficial tally, dropping from 26 seats to one.

Two other minor parties, the Human Rights Party and the Norodom Ranariddh Party – headed by Funcinpec's ousted president Prince Norodom Ranariddh – won three and two seats, respectively, Khieu Kanharith said.

Early returns from 11 of Cambodia's 24 provinces show the CPP with just under 60 percent of the vote.

Official results are not expected for a least a week in an election that, while more peaceful than past elections, was marred by complaints that thousands of names had been mysteriously eliminated from voter registration lists.

Sam Rainsy demanded a re-vote in Phnom Penh, a traditional power base for the opposition, saying that the deletion of voter names had made the election in the capital unfair.

"We will not accept the results, the election has not been free and fair," he said at his party headquarters following the vote, adding: "We want to cancel the results of more than 2,000 polling stations in Phnom Penh ... the CPP is cheating."

Kem Sokha, whose Human Rights Party is one of the newest additions to Cambodia's political arena, also complained Sunday about incomplete voter rolls, saying that turnout had been unusually low.

Despite problems over voter lists, election observers say there has been little of the violence or intimidation that has marred past polls, however they admit that there are not enough monitors to cover every voting booth.

International rights groups maintain that the CPP had waged an intimidation campaign ahead of the polls that has deterred many voters from opposing it. On the night before the vote an SRP radio station was closed by the police, while Sam Rainsy has claimed that several party members have been arrested.

At least 12 SRP supporters in Battambang province were hurt in clashes with CPP party members on Saturday as campaigning wrapped up, party officials said. Police blamed the SRP for starting the fight.

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