Source AP ©

Cambodian PM hails strong local poll results

Cambodian leader Hun Sen lauded his ruling party's strong showing at local elections at the weekend and predicted Tuesday it would also win big at national polls in 2008.

The Cambodian People's Party received 3.1 million votes out of 5.1 million cast during Sunday's balloting to choose local governing councils, Hun Sen said.

It was "an unprecedentedly overwhelming number of votes from our people. We have broken a record," the prime minister said in a speech at an economic forum.

According to unofficial results tallied by his party workers, the CPP continues to control more than 98 percent of the country's 1,621 communes and urban sub-districts known as sangkats, Hun Sen said.

The National Election Committee is expected to release official results on April 24.

If the local polls are any indication, the CPP should win up to 90 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, the country's lower house of parliament, in 2008, Hun Sen predicted.

Hun Sen's party has ruled Cambodia for nearly three decades and has strong rural support. Before the first local elections in 2002, communes were ruled by his loyalists appointed by the Interior Ministry.

On Monday, the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party claimed it won control of 28 communes and sangkats, more than doubling its presence in local councils from the last elections when it won 13.

But Hun Sen said his party won about 1.8 million more votes than the Sam Rainsy Party. "The second place (winner) is still far from being a strong competitor ... very huge difference," he said.

Hun Sen said the election results "will not lead to any major changes in the local governance."

Twelve political parties fielded a total of 102,266 candidates to compete for 11,353 council seats in Sunday's elections.

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