Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s long-ruling party won a sweeping majority of provinces in a July 28 election, official results showed on Monday, supporting his claim of victory and likely deepening a crisis over the disputed result.
The opposition has rejected preliminary results showing the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won a reduced parliamentary majority, calling for an international inquiry into a ballot it says it won and which it says was tainted by widespread cheating.
The election crisis is 60-year-old Hun Sen’s biggest political challenge in two decades and threatens to destabilise the small, fast-growing Southeast Asian nation that has built strong economic and political ties with China in recent years.
The National Election Committee (NEC) - a state body seen as dominated by the CPP - announced official results on Monday showing the CPP had won a majority of votes in 19 out of Cambodia’s 24 provinces.
Even by the government’s own figures, the July 28 vote was his 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.
The NEC did not say when it would release final results for seats in parliament, where the CPP has cited preliminary figures as showing it won 68 seats to the 55 seats won by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The CNRP has claimed victory, saying it won 63 seats in the 123-seat parliament.
The results released by the NEC on Monday are broadly in line with earlier preliminary results.
Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital Phnom Penh on Aug. 6 to demand an international inquiry into the election. Further opposition protests in reaction to the official results could push tensions higher still.
On Thursday, the government deployed armoured personnel carriers and soldiers in Phnom Penh to prevent any violence if mass demonstrations go ahead after the results released on Monday.
The CNRP claims that 1.3 million names were missing from electoral rolls and that Hun Sen’s side had stuffed ballot boxes with illegal votes.
The allegations are being investigated by the National Election Committee. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy wants the United Nations and non-governmental bodies to take part, which the government has rejected.
The United States and European Union have expressed concern about irregularities in the election but both have said an investigation should be conducted by Cambodian authorities.