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Cambodia's Ruling Party Claims Election Victory


Polls are closed in Cambodia, following general elections widely predicted to extend Prime Minister Hun Sen's 23-year hold on power. While there were few reports of election day violence, opposition groups claim that thousands of their supporters were prevented from voting when their names were removed from voting lists. Rory Byrne reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

Although official results are not expected for several days, early indications point to an easy victory for the ruling Cambodian People's Party led by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

CPP officials say they expect to add eight seats to their current 73 in the 121 member parliament, allowing them for the first time to rule without the support of smaller parties.

The main opposition Sam Rainsy Party says it has done better than expected in rural areas without increasing its vote in the cities.

The other eight opposition parties are thought to have faired poorly.

Speaking to reporters, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that thousands of his supporters, mostly in Phnom Penh, had been unable to vote because their names had been removed from voter lists.

"The CPP has manipulated voter lists in order to disenfranchise non-CPP supporters," said Sam Rainsy. "In the next few days we are organizing a big demonstration - hundreds of thousands of people - whose names have been deleted, will join the demonstration to ask for their names to be put back in the voter lists."

International election monitors said it is too early to evaluate the extent of possible electoral abuses. They say they are gathering data from observer teams and will be making full statements in a few days.

But anecdotal evidence from polling stations in and around Phnom Penh would suggest that many voters were unable to cast their ballots. Pol Saman voted early in Phnom Penh:

"I saw a lot of people, more than a hundred at my station, who said: 'Where is my name, you know, because I registered?' And then you know: [they said] 'Please help me.' And then someone said: 'You have to go somewhere, to your district' - a waste of your time. 'I do not want to go' - many people were shouting like that. And then many people, many many people, they got so upset. And then some people said - 'I do not vote, I give up," said Pol Saman.

The government strongly denies that it engaged in any electoral abuses. Ke Bun Khieng is the Campaign Deputy Director for the ruling Cambodian People's Party:

Khieng says the election ran very smoothly, and voting was free and orderly and that everything was equal between the Cambodian People's Party and the opposition parties.

The government credits its expected strong showing with a buoyant economy and infrastructural improvements.

The CPP is also thought to have benefited from Prime Minister Hun Sen's handling of a tense border dispute with Thailand, which has raised fears of another war here.

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