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Dhaka Tribune

Cambodian opposition raises the stakes by claiming election win

Update : 31 Jul 2013, 10:59 AM

Cambodia's main opposition party said on Wednesday it had won the weekend's general election, stepping up its battle with the party of authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen that has also claimed victory and rejected allegations of electoral fraud.

Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said the CNRP had won 63 seats in the 123-member parliament, with Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) getting 60.

The claim was based on its own data.

"This is according to figures of votes we collected from various provinces and this needs to be investigated," Yim Sovann told Reuters.

The government announced on Sunday that the CPP had won 68 seats, a sharp fall from its previous tally of 90 but beating the CNRP's 55.

The election campaign and voting on Sunday were largely peaceful but Phnom Penh remains tense because of the political stand-off. Police and the military are maintaining a presence on the streets, although business is mostly back to normal.

Hun Sen, 60, has been prime minister for 28 years and has crushed dissent in the past while building a network of government and military allies. He has kept out of sight since Sunday and made no comment on the election.

The CNRP was formed last year from the merger of two opposition parties. Long-time opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned from exile on July 19 to galvanise its campaign after a royal pardon that removed the threat of jail for what he called trumped-up charges relating to criticism of a new border the government agreed with Vietnam.

That pardon was recommended by Hun Sen, apparently under pressure from aid donors demanding a free and fair election, analysts said.

Sam Rainsy has demanded an inquiry into the election with United Nations involvement, alleging in particular that up to 1.3m names were missing from the electoral rolls. The government has rejected that idea.

The United States and European Union have expressed concern about irregularities. Both have said an investigation should be conducted by Cambodia's National Election Committee.

US-based Human Rights Watch called on Wednesday for an independent investigation, saying senior CPP officials appeared to have issued fake voting documents to supporters and had allowed some people to vote in more than one place.

"The multiple voting scheme suggests the possibility of systematic election fraud by the CPP and raises serious questions about the credibility of the election," Brad Adams, its director for Asia, said in a statement.

"Since the National Election Committee and local election commissions are under the ruling party's control, influential governments and donors should demand independent investigations into these and other credible allegations of election-related irregularities," he said.

Even by the government's own figures, Sunday's vote was Hun Sen's worst election result since Cambodia returned to full democracy in 1998 after decades of war and turmoil that included the 1975-79 "Killing Fields" rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Prolonged wrangling over the result and a weakened Hun Sen could raise uncertainty over policy in the small but fast-growing Southeast Asian country that has built up a thriving garment sector and forged economic ties with China and Vietnam.

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