Cambodia PM Hun Sen’s party wins by landslide election critics call the ‘death of democracy’

Government rejects international criticism as attempt to intimidate, insists country will move on amid ‘peace and political stability’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 12:27pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 9:26pm

The ruling party of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen congratulated itself Monday on its election victory, while the opposition party unable to contest the polls said they marked the death of democracy in the Southeast Asian country, making its government and any dealings with it illegitimate.

Sok Eysan, the spokesman for Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party, described Sunday’s vote as a “brilliant victory” and said the country would move forward “under the umbrella of peace and political stability”.

Although 20 parties contested the election, the only one with the popularity and organisation to mount a real challenge, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, was dissolved last year by the Supreme Court in a ruling seen by some as political and ensuring Hun Sen would extend his 33 years in power by another five-year term.

The opposition CNRP, in a statement issued on Monday by some of its former leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia, said after the “sham election … what was left of a democracy in name only has been replaced with an outright dictatorship”.

Declaring Hun Sen’s government illegitimate, it 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”.

Based on preliminary election results, Hun Sen’s party is likely to take more than 100 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly.

The disbanded CNRP’s former leaders had urged people not to vote. But its campaign fizzled, if the official turnout tallies are accurate. According to the National Election Committee, more than 6.8 million registered voters, or 82.2 per cent, cast ballots.

Criticism of the election came from Western governments. The US said it regretted the “flawed elections” and would consider its response.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: “Australia is concerned the election took place in an environment where not all political parties, civil society organisations and media could operate freely.”

She added that Australia will continue to urge the Cambodian government to take steps to allow free and open political debate without violence and intimidation.

A veteran Indonesian politician and lawyer who has championed human rights said the Cambodian election was a “sign of danger” for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that could set back democracy across the region.

Former Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, who currently heads the UN Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar investigating abuses by security forces in Rakhine state, said Indonesia as one of the world’s largest democracies must “seriously address” the Cambodian situation.

He told a news conference held by the disbanded CNRP in Jakarta that “I think we’re looking at a possible domino effect of what is happening in Cambodia across Asean as a whole if this is not addressed.”