The PHNOM PENH Reuters- Cambodia ruling party won a landslide win in local commune elections, although a new opposition party gained more posts than expected, official results showed on Monday.
The vote is viewed as a bellwether for the parliamentary elections due next year because of the comunes Cambodia's lowest administrative division. Supporters of the new Candlelight Party praised its gains as a return to democracy, but also accused the ruling party of intimidation and cheating, which was denied by the party.
The National Election Committee NEC said the ruling Cambodian People's Party CPP won 80% of 11,622 commune councillor positions, while the opposition Candlelight Party 18%.
The CPP previously controlled 95% of the posts.
NEC chief Prach Chan said the turnout was 77.91% of 9.2 million registered voters.
The Candlelight Party consists of the former Cambodian National Rescue Party CNRP, which was dissolved by a court before the last parliamentary elections. Hundreds of people have been jailed for sedition under a widespread government crackdown, and its members and supporters are among them.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has run the country for 37 years, and the CPP have faced international condemnation for their actions.
Son Chhay, vice president of Candlelight Party, hopes to win as many local government positions as possible in order to gain representation on the national level next year.
Sam Rainsy, the Opposition supporter and former CNRP chief, said on Twitter that the Candlelight Party had successfully revived democracy in what has effectively been a one-party state in recent years.
Today, thanks to the courage and intelligence of Cambodian democrats who refuse to give up their struggle, the monopoly of power exercised by Hun Sen has been broken at local level despite the unjust character of these communal elections, said Rainsy, who lives in exile in France.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan denied allegations made by the opposition of intimidation and cheating, saying that the ruling party had won because it had served the people well.