The result of Cambodia's general election, in which long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party Cambodian People's Party (CPP) declared victory, must be fully rejected by the worldwide community, the opposition said on Monday.
But dissatisfaction with corruption and a growing youth population with no memory of the Khmer Rouge helped the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) win more than 44 percent of the 2013 vote and carve out a similar share in local elections past year.
"The CPP won 80 percent of all the votes and we estimate we will win not less than 100 seats", Sok Eysan told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I am happy that the Cambodian People's Party won overwhelmingly, more than previous mandates", said supporter Sang Kimson, 38, the morning after the election. Official results will not be released until August.
But election authorities warned they would take action against those pressing for a "clean-finger" campaign and pointed to an 82 per cent turnout as evidence that the boycott call had failed.
More than eight million voters are registered for the sixth general election since polls organised by the United Nations in 1993. "For the first time in the 25 years since the elections organized by the United Nations in 1993, Cambodia lacks a legitimate government recognized by the global community".
Nineteen small - or hitherto unknown - parties competed against the ruling CPP in the absence of the CNRP.
Opposition members had urged voters to boycott the election.
Yet in a sign of a kickback from unhappy voters, around 600,000 ballots - around 10 percent of the total - were spoiled, according to a preliminary count by the National Election Commission. "I've been to the USA several times, I don't need to go there anymore", he said.
Cambodian Buddhist monks vote at a polling station in Phnom Penh.
"Now the government doesn't really have any need for Western support and they're able to make more permanent adjustments to the Cambodian political landscape in line with their long-held resentments and their current political interests", he said.
"For the first time in the 25 years since the elections organized by the United Nations in 1993, Cambodia lacks a legitimate government recognized by the worldwide community", he added.
Yesterday's ballot has prolonged Hun Sen's 33-year rule, but observers say questions of legitimacy may haunt the wily political survivor as frustration sets in over lack of change.
"This election is in reality the funeral ceremony for Cambodian democracy", Asia Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson tweeted.
Hun Sen came to power in 1985 in a country still plagued by civil war and his CPP has won every election since 1998.
"Going to vote on 29 July 2018 means that you play the dirty game of a group of traitors led by Hun Sen who is killing democracy and selling off our country", Sam Rainsy, the popular, self-exiled former leader of the CNRP, wrote on his Facebook page earlier this month. "But I want the new government to do more to help the people".
Banteay Meanchey, for example, has been among the bottom three provinces for voter turnout at the last two elections, local and national, as it was this weekend.
The CNRP appealed to Cambodians not to vote in the "sham election that has no support and is not recognised by the worldwide community".
Along with fracturing the political opposition, Hun Sen's government silenced critical voices in the media, shutting down about 30 radio stations and gutting two English-language newspapers that provided independent reporting.
The opposition CNRP, appealing to younger voters and those seeking change, narrowly lost the last general election in 2013.