Setting the stage for more turmoil in one of the world's most troubled countries, Hun Sen's ruling party Tuesday claimed a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The opposition accused him of widespread fraud.
As the second day of counting drew to a close, preliminary official vote tallies were released for half the voting centers in 11 of the 21 provinces. Hun Sen's party was well ahead.The delay in announcing further results boosted allegations of vote tampering - the election committee is dominated by Hun Sen loyalists.
The two main opposition leaders, former co-Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, said Tuesday they believed the official tally would mirror figures issued by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party.
Rainsy said the CPP had stolen the election.
The CPP said its exit polls indicated it would win 67 of the 122 National Assembly seats, a commanding majority in what had looked like a tight three-way race. According to the figures, Ranariddh's royalist FUNCINPEC will take 42 seats and the Sam Rainsy Party just 13.
"They stole our vote, and we will disagree with whatever their result," Sam Rainsy told his supporters. "Had there not been any fraud, we would be in the majority."
Ranariddh also said the election was marred: "We will not recognize the result."
The prince said FUNCINPEC and Rainsy's party had split the opposition vote, allowing the governing party to prevail.
"We should learn a bitter lesson from the present situation, which is that the division of the democrats allowed the CPP to win in several places," Ranariddh said.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, attending the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila, Philippines, voiced skepticism over Hun Sen's claims, saying "any declarations of victory are premature."
"The only thing we know for a fact is that the Cambodian people voted in large numbers as they did in the previous election," she said.
By all accounts, one seat won by the Sam Rainsy Party was from Pailin, a border town that is a stronghold of thousands of former Khmer Rouge guerrillas who made peace with the government two years ago. They voted Sunday for the first time.
The prince and Rainsy said they would boycott the National Assembly, denying Hun Sen's ruling CPP the two-thirds attendance needed to hold meetings.
The dispute raised the prospect of more turmoil in a country that has suffered unremitting strife in the past 30 years, from civil war and genocide to last year's coup, when Hun Sen deposed Ranariddh as co-prime minister in two days of fighting.
Hun Sen forced the power-sharing arrangement following U.N.-sponsored elections in 1993.