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Cambodia back to normal but tensions remain high
Publication Date : 31-07-2013
Life in the Cambodian capital appeared to return to normal yesterday even though political tensions remained high two days after a divisive general election which returned Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to power, albeit with a reduced majority.
Security forces still ringed the home of Hun Sen as his party moved quickly to dispel rumours that the long-time leader had resigned or left the country as a result of an internal party reshuffle.
"Prime Minister Hun Sen will remain in the position of prime minister for the fifth mandate," the CPP said in a statement.
Tensions were stoked as the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which alleged massive fraud in Sunday's poll, remained adamant in its refusal to accept the outcome.
CNRP leader Sam Rainsy, 64 - a long time political foe of the prime minister, whose recent return from exile re-invigorated the opposition - on Monday threatened to call a nationwide protest unless the poll result was reversed.
The ruling party, however, rejected the demand, dismissing it as pressure tactics.
"From the beginning, the CNRP has targeted the National Election Committee (NEC) to discredit it, to serve their purpose of forcing a political compromise," Phay Siphan, the spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said in a phone interview.
He added: "We have an open society. We have pluralism, and we have rule of law. The NEC has the mandate of the national assembly and representatives of political parties sit on it. There is a due process, and there are mechanisms. Anyone who doesn't like it can file a complaint - at a polling station, with the NEC and also with the Constitutional Court."
The CNRP, a merger of two opposition parties which previously had 29 seats in the 123-seat assembly, won 55 seats in Sunday's election.
The CPP shed 22 seats - a significant number that could curtail its ability to push laws through the national assembly, and leave it vulnerable to censure.
Analysts saw the result as a rebuff to the 61-year-old premier, who has been in office for 28 years and recently boasted that he would step aside only when he is 90.
Phay Siphan said it would take two weeks for the NEC to certify the results of the election, and then the national assembly would meet and choose a prime minister. But the CPP is now 14 seats short of the quorum required for the national assembly to convene.
Asked if the CNRP could obstruct or boycot proceedings, in effect crippling parliament, Phay Siphan said: "Yes, they can, but that will be hijacking the will of the people."
Analysts saw the results as an expression of resentment against the long and often authoritarian rule of Hun Sen and politically connected elites, who have become wealthy while much of the poor have been left behind.
A younger generation of voters, with access to social media and voting for the first time, also powered the CNRP's surge at the ballot box.
Both the United States and European Union have expressed concern about the irregularities in Sunday's election but they said an investigation should be conducted by Cambodian electoral authorities. The opposition had called for a UN-led probe into its allegations, which has received the nod from civil society group Transparency International Cambodia.