Cambodia's opposition leader has virtually acknowledged that his party will lose Sunday's general election, saying the polls are unfair but vowing that his "fight for real democracy" will go on.
Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy told reporters Saturday that any gains his party makes against longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party would be significant, and would set the stage for a long fight for fair elections.
Rainsy's party and nonpartisan groups charge that the ruling party uses the machinery of government and security forces in an unfair manner to reward or pressure voters.
They also say that voter registration procedures were badly flawed, possibly leaving more than 1 million people disenfranchised.
The CPP and the government-appointed National Election Committee insist the election process is fair.
"We are going backward in term of election fairness," Sam Rainsy told election observers Saturday.
Hun Sen's party holds 90 of the 123 seats in the outgoing National Assembly.
Although eight parties are running, the CNRP and CPP are the only serious contenders.
Opposition parties had held 29 seats in the assembly, but were kicked out of the body shortly before election campaigning began on the technical grounds that they had registered to run in the name of the new CNRP, formed by a merger of the two existing opposition parties under whose banners they had won their seats.
Despite the poor prospects for change, the campaign has generated great excitement, especially among young people in Phnom Penh, the capital.
Rainsy's supporters were galvanised when he returned from self-imposed exile on July 19 after archrival Hun Sen arranged to pardon him for convictions that would have put him in prison for 11 years.
Rainsy had called the convictions politically inspired.