Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared set to extend his 28-year rule in one of Asia’s poorest countries with a reduced majority, withstanding a surge from opponents who accused him of corruption and abuse of power.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 68 seats in the 123-member parliament, compared with 55 seats for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party led by Sam Rainsy, government spokesman Phay Siphan said by phone. The country’s closest election in two decades reduced the ruling party’s parliamentary majority to 13 seats from more than 60.
“We have to work hard,” Phay Siphan said, adding the numbers were based on party tallies and weren’t official results. The outcome “gives us an opportunity to reconcile and strengthen democracy in Cambodia.”
The tighter result may increase pressure on Hun Sen to allow greater political freedoms after the opposition gained traction by focusing on forced evictions, land-grabs and workers’ rights. Sam Rainsy, who returned to the country earlier this month and was barred from standing in the election, called it a “historical day” for Cambodia.
“People came in great number to express their will and democracy seemed to move forward,” Sam Rainsy told reporters before the results were announced. “Everything seems to be more mature.”
He called for calm after opposition supporters in one area of the capital Phnom Penh overturned military police trucks and set them on fire. Hundreds of onlookers, including monks and children, watched as the vehicles were set ablaze, according to footage broadcast on the Cambodia National Rescue Party website.