Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, once a Khmer Rouge fighter, headed for election victory yesterday as monitors delivered broadly positive verdicts on the fairness of the Southeast Asian nation's weekend polls.
However, the certainty of a long wait for the final results, not due until Aug. 8, raised the specter of a repeat of the violence which followed the 1998 poll.
Official results from the National Election Committee (NEC) were out for only 20 percent of districts across the impoverished jungle-clad country, but they showed Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) well ahead with 52.5 percent of votes.
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), run by Hun Sen's arch enemy and former finance minister Sam Rainsy, was in second place with 20.5 percent, NEC figures showed, with the royalist FUNCINPEC third with 18 percent.
Translating this into seats in the 123-member parliament involves a complex mathematical formula, although the SRP said it had worked out that the CPP would win 68 seats -- a majority but short of the two-thirds it needs for outright control.
Both the royalists and Sam Rainsy said repeatedly during campaigning they would refuse to join a government with Hun Sen, suggesting there is much political horse-trading -- and therefore instability -- to come as Hun Sen tries to broker a coalition.
FUNCINPEC leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh condemned a CPP victory broadcast on Monday and saying he did not recognize the result.