Cambodian opposition rejects official election results
Sam Rainsy's opposition party claims fraud, vows to continue protests after election authority declares long-time regime's victory
Agence France-Presse in Phnom Penh
Cambodia's opposition says it will boycott the opening session of parliament and continue street protests after the official ratification of the election victory of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party.
Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said his party would not take part in any form of government as a matter of principle until there was an independent investigation of alleged election irregularities.
The National Election Committee yesterday ratified results giving Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) 68 National Assembly seats, and the opposition party 55. Parliament has to convene within 60 days of the July 28 election.
"We do not accept results that do not reflect the real will of the people. These are the results of voter fraud," Sam Rainsy said.
He said the opposition would hold continuous public demonstrations from September 15-17, which might include rallies or marches.
The country has been in a political impasse since the July election, with the CPP insisting it secured a legitimate victory despite vociferous calls from Sam Rainsy for an investigation into alleged vote-rigging.
The election authority said the CPP won 3.2 million votes to the CNRP's 2.9 million. It is the ruling party's worst election result since 1998, losing 22 seats since the last polls five years ago.
A rare mass rally in the capital on Saturday called for an independent probe into results, but the election committee's announcement ends the legal avenues open to the opposition to contest the poll.
The CPP hailed the final results as an end to the political crisis that has gripped the country, saying it will convene parliament with royal assent irrespective of the CNRP's next moves.
The CPP claims that under the constitution it is entitled to convene parliament because it has more than 50 per cent of seats.
Party officials offered an apparent olive branch to the opposition, saying the government was ready to co-operate with it in a new National Assembly and would address voter discontent over corruption and nepotism in the impoverished nation.
"We got the message from the people and will act accordingly," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.
Experts say the election commission's announcement does not extinguish the political turmoil as the CPP and poll authorities have failed to dispel fears of ballot fraud or appease a public increasingly unhappy with rule by narrow interests.
The results were a "big blow for Hun Sun" and leaves the CPP "badly shaken", said independent analyst Lao Mong Hay. "We now have a confrontation between those in power and the rest of the population."
The results may have carved a space for genuine two-party politics to develop.
Hun Sen, 61, a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and oversaw Cambodia's rise from the ashes of war, has vowed to rule until he is 74. One of his three sons - Hun Many - was elected to parliament in July, stoking speculation that he is being groomed.