Cambodia’s ruling party says it wins elections in a landslide

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PHNOM PENH (AP) — Cambodia’s ruling party said Monday it won the most parliamentary seats in elections this weekend, as critics, including the United States, blasted the poll as «neither free nor fair.»

The Cambodia People’s Party (CPP), which ran virtually unopposed, said it won 120 of 125 seats, cementing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s hold on the country’s political landscape ahead of a possible transition of power to his son Hun Manet.

“We not only won the election, we won it in a landslide,” said CPP spokesman Sok Eysan. “We have no choice but to continue serving the people with happiness.”

The National Elections Committee’s website showed Monday that it was still in the process of counting the ballots, but did not comment on the results.

Hun Sen, 70, has ruled Cambodia for nearly four decades, with an increasingly heavy hand in recent years that has nearly wiped out the opposition.

In the run-up to the election, the only significant opposition, the Candlelight Party, was disqualified from the race on a technicality, and anyone who boycotted the election was threatened with sanctions.

Last week, Hun Sen noted that Western-educated military general Hun Manet «could be» prime minister next month.

Hun Manet, who ran for office for the first time, won a seat representing Phnom Penh in the national assembly, according to the CPP.

The pro-government Funcinpec party said it won five seats.

After Sunday’s election, the United States said it was pausing some foreign assistance programs in Cambodia and imposing visa bans on people it says undermined democracy.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that Washington was «concerned» that the elections, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP faced no viable opponents, were «neither free nor fair.»

Miller said that before the vote, the Cambodian authorities engaged in a pattern of threats and harassment against the political opposition, the media and civil society.

A group of parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia called the election a «crowning for Hun Sen and his cronies.»

“The international community must not fall into the trap of legitimizing this pantomime,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.

Some 8.1 million people voted in the one-sided election, a turnout of 84%, according to the electoral commission.

Many voters posted on social media images of them tearing up ballots in protest of the election. Prime Minister Hun Sen asked them to «confess» or face legal consequences.

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