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Cambodian opposition makes gains in election

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia's opposition appeared to make impressive gains in yesterday's general election, though the ruling party claimed a victory that would extend the mandate of longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen. The results, if confirmed, lend support to opposition contentions that the vote could usher in opportunities for greater democracy.

Khieu Kanharith, a spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said on his Facebook page that his party won 68 of the 123 National Assembly seats. He said the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party won 55 seats, gaining heavily on the 29 it held in the outgoing parliament.

The opposition party was reserving its projections of the size of its gains pending the release of more figures. But even the 55 seats conceded by the ruling party represented a stunning upsurge in fortune for the CNRP, which had predicted extensive vote-rigging.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who returned to Cambodia this month from years in self-imposed exile, said in a statement that it was a "historic day," but urged his supporters to maintain calm and wait for official results to be released.

It was not clear when they would be announced.

If the results stand as the ruling party projected, it would be a huge boost for the much- beleaguered opposition, giving it a strong platform for future growth. However, a simple majority is sufficient for most legislative business, ensuring that the CPP can continue to administer the country much as it wishes, though with increased sensitivity for public opinion. The CPP has an overwhelming majority of local administration posts as well. -- AP

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