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Ruling party leading in Cambodia poll

PHNOM PENH, July 28 – Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party won nearly 60 percent of the vote in early returns from weekend polls, according to a partial count Monday by Cambodian election authorities.

Initial returns from 11 of the nation’s 24 provinces showed that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had won 59.8 percent of the 1.6 million votes counted so far.

The main opposition Sam Rainsy Party took 22.9 percent of the ballots counted by Monday morning, the National Election Committee said. The rest of the votes were divided among a slate of smaller parties.

Election authorities did not release results by constituency, and gave no estimate of how many seats each party had won in parliament. Voter turnout had not yet been calculated.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith claimed victory late Sunday, saying the party had captured at least 91 of the 123 seats in parliament, giving them more than a two-thirds majority.

He has vowed to remain in power until he is 90 years old, and has relentlessly undercut his political rivals.

Hun Sen’s coalition partner in the last government, the royalist Funcinpec, has imploded and splintered under the weight of internal scandals that prompted the party’s erstwhile leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh to flee into exile in Kuala Lumpur.

Hun Sen had been widely tipped to win due to a booming economy that has helped improve the quality of life in one of the world’s poorest nations, and due to nationalist sentiment sparked by the border feud with Thailand.

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He was so confident of victory that his government on Monday was set to hold a new round of border talks with Thailand, even before his re-election has been confirmed.

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