PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's election committee on Sunday handed victory in hotly disputed polls to the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, prompting a defiant opposition to vow further protests over allegations of widespread poll fraud.
The kingdom has been stuck in political impasse since the July poll, with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of strongman Hun Sen adamant it won a legitimate victory despite vociferous calls from opposition leader Sam Rainsy for a probe into the alleged ballot fraud.
The CPP took 68 seats to 55 for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, according to the country's National Election Committee. The election authority also confirmed that the CPP won 3.2 million votes nationally to the CNRP's 2.9 million.
It is the ruling party's worst election result since 1998, losing 22 seats since the last polls five years ago, and represents a significant inroad by the opposition.
But the NEC's announcement ends the legal avenues open to the opposition to contest the poll, despite its allegations that fraud distorted the result and a mass rally of some 20,000 supporters on Saturday calling for an independent probe.
Rainsy on Sunday moved quickly to reject the NEC's tally, insisting the loss would not blunt his party's efforts to overturn the poll, despite the official end of the appeal process.
"We do not accept results that do not reflect the real will of the people. These are the results of voter fraud," he told AFP.
"We will protest the results in different ways because the current political situation is not like in the past. We need... to find an reasonable solution," he added, without elaborating.