Cambodia’s opposition leader on Monday rejected the results of a weekend election showing a win for the long-time ruling party, raising fears of post-poll instability and setting the stage for a new showdown with Prime Minister Hun Sen. The challenge by opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who returned from exile last week to campaign for his Cambodia National Rescue Party, comes despite his party’s relative success in Sunday’s polling, in which the opposition made its biggest gains in years. Provisional results from Sunday’s voting showed the opposition capturing 55 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won 68 seats, or a majority of 55 percent.
Rainsy — who had earlier vowed mass protests if the voters’ will was denied — called for an independent investigation into allegations that as many as a million people may have been deprived of their right to vote, among other irregularities.
He said the challenge was not a bargaining chip to get into government but instead a sign that his party was ‘‘interested in rendering justice to the Cambodian people to ensure that the will of the Cambodian people not be distorted or reversed.’’
The rejection of the results raised the specter that Cambodia might return to a previous pattern of post-election instability that has several times led to political gridlock and turned violent. If the opposition party boycotts the assembly, it may be impossible for Hun Sen to legally form a government.