|LANDSLIDE PREDICTED: Hun Sen is Asias longest-serving leader. He was expected to win the vote even before the military standoff escalated this month.|
Cambodian leader's party claims election win
Prime minister's popularity fueled by nationalism
PHNOM PENH - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party said it had sealed a landslide victory in parliamentary elections yesterday that were expected to usher in a new term for the former Khmer Rouge soldier who has ruled for 23 years.
Hun Sen's popularity at the polls was buoyed by a surge of nationalism amid a tense border dispute with neighboring Thailand.
The 57-year-old Hun Sen's reputation as a strongman served him well in the campaign, with voters rallying around the leader as Cambodian troops faced off with Thai soldiers for a second week at a disputed 11th century Hindu temple.
Just hours after polling stations closed, the ruling Cambodian People's Party appeared to be "leading everywhere," and estimates from party agents nationwide indicated a sweep of more than 83 seats in the 123-seat lower house, said party spokesman Khieu Kanharith.
Such a result would strengthen the party's dominance and give it a two-thirds majority in the 123-seat lower house.
Thun Saray, head of the Cambodian election monitoring group Comfrel, said it was "early to declare victory but the trend shows that CPP is winning." Official results are due later in the week.
In power since 1985, Hun Sen is Asia's longest-serving leader.
He was expected to win the vote even before the military standoff escalated earlier this month. But patriotic passions over Preah Vihear temple and Hun Sen's firm stance against Thailand have swayed many undecided voters in his favor, analysts say.
"Everybody now supports the government because this is a national issue," said Kek Galabru, a prominent Cambodian human rights activist and election monitor. "More people will vote for [Hun Sen] to give him more power to deal with Preah Vihear."