Suy Se and Rose Troup Buchanan Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's heir apparent insisted Monday on the legitimacy of elections his party won against no meaningful opposition, defying international criticism that the polls were neither free nor fair.
Hun Sen has presided over Cambodia for nearly 40 years -- stifling all real opposition, freedom of speech and democratic reform -- but has indicated recently that he will soon hand power to his eldest son Hun Manet.
The United States on Monday condemned the polls, in which the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is predicted to win all but five of 125 parliamentary seats in the lower house.
But Hun Manet posted a triumphant message across multiple social media platforms hailing his party's victory.
"The Cambodian people have clearly expressed their wills through votes," he wrote.
"An overwhelming number have expressed support for the Cambodian People's Party."
He thanked Cambodians "for choosing to vote, and especially for all the love and confidence in the CPP".
Official results will not be available for weeks, although the CPP claimed late Sunday to have won a "landslide" victory.
The small government-aligned royalist FUNCINPEC party, headed by Prince Norodom Chakravuth, is expected to take five seats -- giving the new parliament at least a patina of diversity after the CPP won every seat in the last election.
The disqualification of the only viable opposition force, the Candlelight Party, on a technicality, meant there was no realistic outcome other than a big CPP win.
The United States said the elections were "neither free nor fair", pointing to "a pattern of threats and harassment against the political opposition, media, and civil society".
"These actions denied the Cambodian people a voice and a choice in determining the future of their country," US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement on Monday.
He said Washington was preparing to impose visa restrictions on some individuals for undermining democracy, and halting some aid programmes.
- Opposition silenced –
In the months running up to the national polls, freedom of speech was heavily stifled, with one of the few remaining independent news outlets, Voice of Democracy, shut down in February.
And Hun Sen ordered election laws changed, banning anyone who fails to vote in the poll from ever running for office -- a move that will affect exiled rivals.
Authorities are investigating 27 people for inciting voters to spoil their ballots on polling day, interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told AFP.
With no meaningful opposition, intentionally invalidating their ballot papers would have been one way for voters to show dissatisfaction with Hun Sen's rule.
In the run-up to polling day, election authorities banned exiled opposition figurehead Sam Rainsy -- Hun Sen's long-time arch-enemy -- from running for office for 25 years for urging people to void their ballots.
While during the counting AFP reporters witnessed a number of spoiled ballots -- later downplayed by the CPP -- there was little chance of protests in a country entirely under Hun Sen's thumb.
On Monday, Phnom Penh was calm, with few people on the streets.
"The situation is normal, calm and good," 42-year-old news stand vendor Khon Sokna told AFP.
Behind her a number of English and Khmer-language newspapers flapped from a string, celebrating Hun Sen's victory at the polls.
"There is no problem at all," she said.
In a country that was torn apart by genocide and war within living memory, many were grateful for the continuity of Hun Sen, and his intention of passing on power to his son.
Shop owner Lon Mon, 52, said it would be sad when the prime minister retired.