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Cambodian parliament reappoints premier Hun Sen

Politicians in Cambodia have formally extended the rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The opposition, claiming vote-rigging in July's election and calling for senior government posts, boycotted the parliamentary session.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen was handed another five-year term as prime minister on Tuesday, as the 61-year-old approached three decades in power. All 68 parliamentarians from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) approved his reappointment, but the 55 opposition seats were empty.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) boycotted parliament, starting with the opening session on Monday, alleging vote-rigging in July's election and saying the country was sliding towards "dictatorship."

"There will be mass protests in [the capital] Phnom Penh and nationwide," CNRP party spokesman Yim Sovann told the AFP news agency.

Cheated?

"The CNRP will continue to seek truth and justice for the voters." The party has said it believes it was cheated out of more than 2 million votes, enough to have tipped the balance in its favor.

Cambodia's long-serving premier, however, alleges that the opposition's complaints center around a desire for more parliamentary power, not an election recount.

Hun Sen said that during talks with the CNRP last week, the party pushed for senior parliamentary positions - notably the role as National Assembly president - rather than an independent election inquiry.

"Have you ever seen, anywhere in the world, a minority party holding the position of the president of parliament?" Hun Sen asked. "If we had agreed to their demand for the presidency, they would surely have attended the meeting [in parliament]."

Hun Sen, who portrays himself as the man who saved Cambodia from the chaos of the Khmer Rouge and the country's subsequent civil war, has spent 28 years in power and has said in the past that he intends to remain in office into his seventies. July's elections weakened his grip on power, however, with the CNRP almost doubling its number of opposition seats.

msh/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)