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Cambodia Opposition Rejects Election Result

Cambodia National Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy, center, speaks during a press conference in his main party headquarters in Chak Angre Leu in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 29, 2013.
Cambodia National Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy, center, speaks during a press conference in his main party headquarters in Chak Angre Leu in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 29, 2013.
Cambodia's ruling party has won a narrow victory in national elections Sunday, after close to three decades of near complete dominance in Cambodian politics. But the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has rejected the results and called for an investigation into allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

Even though a government spokesman proclaimed victory, it was the ruling party's worst showing in Cambodian electoral politics. Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won 68 seats in the nation's 123-member parliament -- a significant decline from the 90-seat majority it previously held.

The main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) took the remaining 55 seats, almost doubling the 29 seats it held in the outgoing parliament.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told reporters Monday the CNRP would not accept the results of the ballot because of what he characterized as widespread fraud at the polls. Rainsy called on local and international bodies to investigate the election.

“We ask them now to send experts to be part of this technical-joint committee, joint-technical committee in order to investigate, investigate all the irregularities and to access the implications of all irregularities on election results," Rainsy said.

The opposition’s rejection of the preliminary results came after monitors reported widespread problems with the voting process. Koul Panha, Director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said in an interview that the election was less fair than the previous ones.

"This election is the least fair of the [recent] elections, if you compare with the past, because of unequal access to media, because of the problem of voter lists, because of problems of military policy carrying out activities of the ruling party, court officials also included, because of the use of state resources and because of the opposition leader not being able to fully contest as a candidate," Panha said.

On Monday, the non-profit Transparency International Cambodia echoed those concerns. The group said it sent 900 observers to around 400 of the nation's 19,000 polling stations and found what it called a litany of breaches.

Chief among those was that in 60 percent of polling stations, people who had the right identification papers could not find their names on the voting list. It also found that people who lacked the correct identification were allowed to vote in a quarter of polling stations.

Transparency International said its findings closely matched pre-election findings of other monitors.

Panha said the amount of problems could have affected the outcome of the election. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his concern is for the will of the people.

"What we are interested in is to render justice to the Cambodian people. To ensure that the will of the Cambodian people will not be distorted or reversed as before."

The opposition made its gains after two major parties merged last year to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party to challenge the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party. It touted a populist platform calling for a sharp rise in civil servants’ salaries, monthly payments to those over 65 years old, and an increase in the minimum wage. It also pledged to set government prices for agricultural products, lower gas costs and free health care for the poor.

Critics questioned whether the opposition would be able to pay for the proposed measures.

Hun Sen has been prime minister or co-prime minister of Cambodia for 28 years, first assuming office in 1985.