Cambodia's ruling party won an overwhelming victory in weekend local elections, maintaining its firm grip on power, according to party projections announced yesterday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP)clinched control of more than 98 percent of Cambodia's communes in the country's second local elections held on Sunday, said Khieu Kanharith, the party's spokesman.
The National Election Committee is expected to release its official results on April 24.
Unofficial results announced yesterday were tallied by the main political parties, which have proved in the past to be in line with the official count.
About 70 percent of Cambodia's 7.8 million registered voters cast their ballots for local councils to administer Cambodia's 1,621 communes and urban sub-districts known as sangkat.
Hun Sen's party has ruled for nearly three decades and has strong rural support. Prior to the first local elections in 2002, communes were ruled by his loyalists appointed by the Interior Ministry.
Khieu Kanharith, who is also information minister, said ``only 27 communes and sangkat were lost to other parties.'' The projections indicated no major change from the 2002 elections, when the ruling party won control of all but 23 local councils.
The main opposition Sam Rainsy Party won control of 27 communes and sangkat, doubling its presence in local councils from the last elections, when it won 13, said Mu Sochua, the party's secretary-general.
Mu Sochua said the results showed the Sam Rainsy Party was emerging as "not just the only alternative but a very strong alternative" to Hun Sen's ruling party.
Sam Rainsy said yesterday that the elections had made his party the nation's second-biggest and called on the opposition to unite around him against Hun Sen in next year's general elections.
"Cambodia's political landscape has changed dramatically and now we are the only alternative party to the CPP," he said.
"We are confident that once all the democratic forces unite with my party, we will be in a position to win against the ruling party in 2008," he said. "That's why I am launching the appeal for all political parties that are not alliance with the ruling party to unite now to bring about democratic change in Cambodia."
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