Officials Confirm Hun Sen Party's Leads

By Daniel Lovering
Published July 31st 2003 in World - AP Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Prime Minister Hun Sen's party won nearly half the votes in Cambodia's general elections, according to preliminary results released Thursday by the National Election Committee.

But the votes are not enough to allow the Cambodian People's Party to form a government on its own, and its rivals' refusal to join a coalition with Hun Sen at the helm is threatening a political deadlock.

The tally confirmed the results released by independent poll monitoring groups earlier this week, showing the Hun Sun's party winning the elections.

On Thursday, the National Election Committee said on its Web site that the Hun Sen's party won 47.28 percent of the votes cast Sunday while the opposition Sam Rainsy Party came in second with 21.89 percent votes. The royalist Funcinpec party won 20.75 percent votes, it said. The rest of the votes went to smaller parties or were declared invalid.

Hun Sen said Funcinpec should join him in a coalition or face the prospect of losing influence. If Funcinpec "becomes an opposition party, I can say that would be suicide," Hun Sen told reporters.

"They will become an opposition party that will be weaker than the current opposition (Sam Rainsy) party," he said. "So if they try to stay as a partner, the outcome won't be too mournful."

The election committee said its results are preliminary as discrepancies have to be investigated and disputes resolved. Also, under Cambodia's proportional representation system, the committee will have to calculate how many seats each party will be allotted in the 123-member National Assembly. The final official results will be announced Aug. 8.

Hun Sen said Wednesday he expects his party to control up to 73 seats, nine short of the 82 it needs for a two-thirds majority to govern on its own.

The Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party have said they are willing to join a coalition with the CPP provided Hun Sen is not the prime minister. Hun Sen has said there is no chance of that happening.

This has threatened to create a political deadlock of the kind that occurred in 1998 when parties bargained for four months while the capital was rocked by violent demonstrations.

Hun Sen said Wednesday that he will stay prime minister until a new government is formed, which according to the Constitution must be sworn in within 60 days of elections.

Hun Sen's party has dominated Cambodia since it was installed by the Vietnamese army, which ousted the Khmer Rouge (news - web sites) from power in 1979. An estimated 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge's three and a half year rule.