Sunday, July 27, 2008

July, 27, 2008 Cambodia Votes

PHNOM PENH - The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) claimed an expected victory in Sunday's general election, giving another five years in power to ex-Khmer Rouge guerrilla Hun Sen, prime minister for the last 23 years.

Party spokesman Khieu Kanharith told Reporters the one-time communist but now firmly free-market CPP was on course to win 80 of the 123 seats in parliament.

A member of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) said early results suggested it was on course for at least 40 seats, although party chief Sam Rainsy, a French-educated former finance minister, put his projected tally much higher.

Full results from Sunday's poll, which passed off largely without incident in a country where democratic politics have frequently been marred by violence, are not expected until late on Monday.

Although he had been widely expected to win thanks to near double-digit economic growth in the last five years, Hun Sen gained extra support from a nationalist spat with Thailand over a 900-year-old temple on their border.

Both Bangkok and Phnom Penh have sent troops to the Preah Vihear ruins, which sit on a jungle-clad escarpment separating the two southeast Asian countries, although so far the only clashes have been verbal and diplomatic, not military.

Hun Sen, a wily chess-playing 57-year-old who lost an eye in Pol Pot's assault on Phnom Penh in 1975, orchestrated the final surrender of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1990s to usher in an unprecedented decade of peace and stability.

Falling political violence is another sign the lot of Cambodia's 14 million people is improving, although human rights groups say four CPP and two SRP activists, including a journalist, were murdered in the month before polling.

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