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Cambodian Strongman Claims Victory

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Strongman Hun Sen’s party claimed a landslide victory today in the nation’s parliamentary elections, prompting allegations of fraud by the opposition and setting the stage for more turmoil in this troubled country.

Though official results had still not been released, the Cambodian People’s Party claimed it had won 66 seats in the 122-member National Assembly, while Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s party had won 40 seats and the Sam Rainsy Party took 16.

“We seriously believe there was a counting fraud,” Ranariddh’s party said in a statement. “We believe the vote is not free and fair. Therefore, the election result is not credible.”

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, the country’s top independent election monitor, said its figures showed that Hun Sen’s party had taken 40% to 50% of the vote.

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Hun Sen’s party claimed to have received 1.8 million votes, compared with 1.4 million for Ranariddh’s party and 583,000 for the Sam Rainsy Party. Assembly seats, however, are allotted under a complicated formula not entirely reflecting the popular vote.

Sam Rainsy, a former finance minister and leading opposition figure, rejected the claims.

Preliminary official results have still not been announced by the Hun Sen-dominated National Election Committee, which was accused of vote tampering when its scheduled release of results Monday was postponed a day.

But the group coordinating 678 international observers monitoring the elections said after hours of deliberations that it believed the delays were purely technical and that the voting process was free and fair.

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More than 90 minutes after the results from Sunday’s vote were to be announced, election officials told party activists, journalists and human rights workers that incomplete documents and communications problems had forced a delay until this morning.


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