Cambodians head to polls for national elections
Cambodia's estimated 8 million voters headed to the polls Sunday for the first national elections in five years, dpa reported.
The National Election Committee says the elections are the most peaceful and least violent since democratic polls recommenced after the Khmer Rouge era in 1993.
A tense border stand-off with Thailand which has seen troops mobilized is not expected to unduly influence the outcome, although analysts predicted it may increase voter turnout. Voting is not compulsory in Cambodia.
The lack of impact of the border dispute over an ancient temple and surrounding land is because despite nationalistic sentiment running high, Cambodian political parties typically register partisan supporters months or even years in advance.
"If you are Khmer, you love your country no matter what party you support, so people are not going to change their vote because of the border dispute," election committee spokesman Em Sopath said Saturday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party is expected to further increase its dominance, with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, the royalist Funcinpec party, the Human Rights Party and the Norodom Ranariddh Party expected to vie for the remaining seats.
The Cambodian People's Party, boasting 5 million members, currently holds 73 of the 123 parliamentary seats and believes it can snare 80 seats Sunday.
Funcinpec currently holds 26 seats, and the Sam Rainsy Party 24.
Hun Sen has ruled for 23 years, but is enjoying a new surge in popularity due to Cambodia's rapid economic growth, which the International Monetary Fund placed at around 10.5 percent in 2007.