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Cambodia's ruling party claims victory

world Updated: Jul 27, 2008 19:30 IST

The ruling Cambodian People's Party on Sunday claimed victory in general elections, setting the stage for Prime Minister Hun Sen to extend his 23-year grip on power.

"We won the election," party spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP. "We are leading in most of the provinces."

He added that the party was not yet sure of its margin of victory, as ballots were still being counted.

Earlier Khieu Kanharith had predicted the party would win 80 of the 123 seats in parliament, just shy of a two-thirds majority, as the party siphoned away votes from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and royalist Funcinpec.

Official results from Cambodia's National Election Committee are not expected until next month.

The country's 15,000 polling stations opened for eight hours of balloting, conducted under the eyes of 17,000 domestic and international observers. More than eight million people were registered to vote.

Hun Sen's CPP says it hopes to expand its majority in parliament and form a single-party government.

After the 2003 elections, Cambodia was plunged into a year of political deadlock amid talks over a coalition government with Funcinpec.

But under new rules, the party needs just a simple majority to form a government, instead of the two-thirds needed in the past.