Hun Sen Re-Elected and Extends His 33-Year Rule In Cambodia
The incumbent Cambodian’s People Party (CPP) won Cambodia’s election in a landslide victory by gaining over three-quarters of the total vote. The party’s spokesperson Sok Eysan said that based on the preliminary result, CPP gained 100 out of 125 seats in the National Assembly or the parliament.
“The CPP won 80 percent of all the votes and we estimate we will win not less than 100 seats,” Sok Eysan said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
CPP’s victory means that Hun Sen will be elected again as the country’s prime minister extending his already record long 33-years in office. Addressing his supporters in Facebook, the 65-year-old promised stability and economic growth in Cambodia.
The 2018 poll is the Cambodian’s sixth in 25 years and since it has recovered from decades of war, which included the 1975-1979 rule of the brutal Khmer Rouge that claimed the lives of 1.7 million civilians.
Hun Sen, who defected from the Khmer Rouge, is now the world’s longest-serving leader.
But the West, as well as Cambodian human rights and opposition groups condemned the election as unfair due to a series of intimidations during the campaign. Hun Sen also dissolved the country’s largest opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and last year the CNRP former leader Kem Sokha was sent to jail for treason charges.
Most of the 20 opposition parties contesting the election results are relatively new parties with no power. Eight were established 18 months ahead of the ballot.
According to the National Election Commission (NEC), the turnout in the Sunday’s election hit 82.71 percent, or around 6.8 million Cambodians casting their votes, exceeding that of the 2013 election (69.61 percent).
“This is the success of the election,” Sik Bun Hok, chairman of the NEC, said in a televised news conference.
Spoilt ballot papers represented a protest
Many Cambodians protested the election and labeled it a “sham” by deliberately casting spoiled or invalid ballot papers. According to AsiaTimes, more than 587,000 votes in the election were spoiled votes. Channel News Asia reported that the number of such votes reached 17 percent of the national vote.
During a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia, some CNRP former leaders called on ASEAN member countries to boycott the election result.
After the “sham election … what was left of a democracy in name only has been replaced with an outright dictatorship,” the official statement from the disbanded party said.
The CNP also warned, “governments and businesses across the world that the agreements, deals and accords signed as of today by Cambodia’s de facto regime will have no legal validity and will be revised by the future democratic government of Cambodia.”
Reaction from the West and China
The White House reacted by saying Sunday’s election results went against the will of Cambodians.
“The flawed elections, which excluded the country’s principal opposition party, represent the most significant setback yet to the democratic system enshrined in Cambodia’s Constitution. The election campaign was marred by threats from national and local leaders,” White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
But the Hun Sen administration snubbed the threat, saying that Washington was trying to intimidate Cambodians.
“This is against the Cambodians who went to vote to decide their own fate,” Spokesperson Phay Siphan said in response to Sander’s statement.
Hun Sen does not seem worried as he has China as an ally which is ready to pour billions of dollars in development aid and loans into the Southeast Asian nation.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang stated that Cambodia’s election is an internal matter for the country.