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In Cambodia vote, stability wins

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Overseeing economic growth

If Cambodia has come a long way since the 1970s, when nearly 2 million people died under the oppressive rule of the Khmer Rouge, Mr. Sen is largely to thank.

Since defecting from the Khmer Rouge and taking power in 1977, he has steered a course of controlled growth and democratic reform, albeit often tightfistedly.

Still, Cambodia is best known today for its prized religious temples and unspoiled beaches, which drew a record 2 million tourists last year. The country experienced average economic growth of 10 percent a year during Sen's last five-year term, among the stablest in the country's history.

In recent days, the CPP's popularity has also soared from nationalistic pride, thanks to an escalating border dispute that erupted with Thailand two weeks ago.

Cambodia had been lobbying the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate Preah Vihear, an ancient temple complex, as a World Heritage Site, even though Thailand claims that the site sits on its territory. When UNESCO granted the site World Heritage status, the Thai government sent hundreds of troops to the border, prompting Cambodia's ruling CPP to do the same. The maneuver has won Sen points for standing up to its richer, more powerful neighbor.

Because the CPP is riding an economic boom and the nationalistic spike, its victory is neither a surprise nor a disappointment for analysts like Mr. Kim, who says stability is what Cambodia needs right now.

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