Cambodia: Hun Sen’s party claims “tidal wave” in uncontested election

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party claimed a “tidal wave” of victory on Sunday after legislative elections without suspense, which Hun Sen, who has ruled the country hard for 38 years, is expected to hand over to his eldest son.

“We are winning with a tidal wave,” Cambodian People’s Party (PPC) spokeswoman Sok Ayson told AFP while awaiting the first official results.

According to a non-certain figure, voters voted with a turnout of at least 84%.

In the absence of any credible opposition following Hun Sen’s boycott of the anti-mainstream movement, the CPP could, as in 2018, win all 125 seats in parliament.

Then he signed this breakthrough after the dissolution by a court of the main opposition party.

This time the prime minister’s only credible rival was the Candle Party, which the latter said was expelled for not properly registering with the Election Commission.

The Prime Minister responded to Telegram messaging saying that the overwhelming turnout showed that support for the opposition had waned. “The Cambodian people will not allow fraud groups to destroy the country,” he said.

-Opposition strangled –

More than 9.7 million voters were called to the polls for these seventh national elections since the Paris Peace Accords in 1991, marking the end of the Khmer Rouge era.

The election was criticized by a coalition of 17 international NGOs, including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which expressed concern on Saturday about a “significant lack of transparency and fairness”.

“We have exercised our duty as a citizen and our right to vote to choose the party we want to lead the country,” Hun Manet told reporters after casting his vote at an office in Phnom Penh.

To his detractors, Hun Sen has rolled back fundamental freedoms and used the judicial system to crush his opponents, jailing dozens since he came to power.

Phil Robertson of the NGO Human Rights Watch said, “Imposing your son is stabbing the Cambodian people in the back.”

He says, “His escape makes Cambodia look more like North Korea rather than a real democracy”.

– Imposing your son –

Hun Manet, a member of the powerful Standing Committee, was first a candidate on the CPP’s list in Phnom Penh, the necessary first step to become prime minister.

When asked by AFP what he would do after coming to power, Hun Manet replied that he had “nothing to say about that”. “He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” analyzes political scientist O Virk. “It will be a big challenge to replace his father.”

“I vote without enthusiasm, there is no opposition now,” Oum Sokum, 51, told AFP at a dusty polling station in Phnom Penh amid a heavy police presence.

Other voters said they were voting for stability in a state still badly affected by years of war and genocide.

Chia Ferrac, 36, said, “I want to vote for the person who can help the country’s development. I want to live in peace and harmony.”

As the elections approached, freedom of expression was largely suppressed, with the closing of one of the last independent media, heavy condemnation of the main opponent for treason, and amendments to the electoral law to virtually exclude opponents exiled from future elections.

Among them is Hun Sen’s archenemy, Sam Rainsy, who he says has been living in exile in France since 2015 to avoid prison for a conviction motivated by political considerations.

“The surprise of the day will be the number and percentage of scratched or illegal ballots cast by his supporters in protest,” he told AFP.

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