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Special Coverage of the First Senate Election in Cambodia

Cambodia held its first senate election on Sunday. However the election was not a general election. Only 11,382 commune council members throughout the country and 123 parliamentarians took part to elect 57 senators.

Because the small numbers of voters, priliminary results were announced by the government at around 7 PM local time, only about 4 hours after the polls are closed.

The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is projected to win 45 seats in the 61-seat senate. The royalist party FUNCINPEC is predicted to win 10 seats while the opposition Sam Rainsy Party is expected to win 2 seats.

The King will select 2 senators and the National Assembly will select another two. Before the election, CPP has 31 seats, FUNCINPEC 21, and SRP, 7. The Senate was created as an upper house by constitutional amendment in March 1999, with Cambodian People's Party (CPP) President Chea Sim as the head.

After casting the vote, Hun Sen told reporters that he is proud that this election is carried out by Cambodians without foreign technical experts or foreign aid.

Fifteen well-known NGOs in Cambodia refused to observe the senate elections. They said the election undemocratic and unfair because only a group of selected people can participate.

The Sam Rainsy Party also calls Sunday's election "unfair", and "undemocratic". The Cambodian opposition party president Sam Rainsy told VOA by phone from Paris, France, where he is in exile, that the National Election Committee (NEC) is bias toward the ruling party because it's made up of only the pro-government people.

Mr. Rainsy accused the government of vote-buying tactics. In response to the SRP charges, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanariddh told VOA that the opposition party should forward any evidence of vote-buying to the NEC. The CPP spokesman also said that the opposition party has agreed to the rules for the senate election months ago, but now decides to criticize it as undemocratic.

FUNCINPEC party told VOA it is happy with the result of the election even if it is projected to lose 11 seats. FUNCINPEC President Norodom Ranariddh called the senate election an "historical event" in Cambodia.

VOA stringers went to different provinces to cover the Sunday senate election. Chun Sakada covered Kandal province where PM Hun Sen casted his vote there.

Heng Reaksmey went to Kampong Cham where FUNCINPEC President Ranariddh and CPP honorary president and a number of the SRP party casted their votes.

Mony stayed in Phnom Penh with Khemara.

Thida Win was in the tourist town of Siem Reap. The final results are not expected for another few days.

There was no violence or incidents during the Sunday election. Some people don't pay much attention to the election. Some expresses their hope that the senate will work more actively toward rebuilding Cambodia