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CPP Claims Sweeping Victory in Low-Turnout Elections

[Editor's note: For full audio to VOA Khmer's coverage of this story, scroll throughout.]

The ruling Cambodian People's Party estimated it took more than 90 percent of commune seats in Sunday's nationwide elections, while the National Election Committee said it was satisfied the elections had been free and fair.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party took the second-most number of commune council seats, officials said.

Several parties alleged irregularities, and authorities said these would be investigated, as VOA Khmer continued its extended coverage of commune elections, the second such since the 1991 Paris Accords, where leaders for 1,621 commune councils were chosen. Official results are expected April 24.

CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin said he was happy for the party.

"It is a happy thing that it is 90 percent, because it is a democratic election and it is not 100 percent," he said. "But when we get this much, we consider it especially good and should be happy."

Funcinpec President Keo Puth Reasmey said the party had no "substantial protests," but leaders from the Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh parties both said the polling had not been fair.

Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the initial results were acceptable.

To listen to Mony Mony report in Khmer,

Following peaceful polling Sunday, election officials said fewer voters participated in this election than in 2002, with a 70 percent turnout of 7.8 million registered voters. Officials said voter apathy was one cause.

Ma Sophal, a chief investigator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he was concerned the low turnout might mean a high number of people were kept from voting. From 60 percent to 70 percent of eligible voters went to the polls this year, compared to about 89 percent in 2002, Ma Sophal said.

"Comfrel will conduct a small research [project] on the reason behind the people not going to vote," he said.

To listen to Chun Sakada report in Khmer,

Voters Monday including a policeman, a market vendor and a resident of Takeo province reflected on Sunday's voting and what it might mean for Cambodia.

To listen to Suon Kanika report in Khmer,

Sam Rainsy Party officials in the Bantey Meanchey border town of Poipet said the number of votes in one commune far outnumbered the number of registered voters.

To listen to Kong Soth report in Khmer,

The Sam Rainsy Party in Kampong Cham, meanwhile, claimed a motorcycle collision with a CPP supporter that left one opposition activist and his passenger injured was no accident.

Long Van Eng, who was recuperating in a Kampong Cham provincial hospital, said he was hit on purpose, a charge the other rider, Neath Chhun Heng, denied.

An unidentified woman riding behind Long Van Eng was also seriously injured, party officials said.

Ad Hoc investigator Neang Savath said he suspected the crash was an accident, because at least one of the men was inebriated and speeding.

To listen to Seng Ratana report in Khmer,