PHNOM PENH (AFP): Cambodia’s flawed elections are set to hand the ruling party of strongman Hun Sen all 125 parliamentary seats, a spokesman told AFP Monday, an outcome that would turn the country into a one-party state after a vote devoid of an opposition. Sunday’s ballot has prolonged Hun Sen’s 33-year rule, but observers say questions of legitimacy may haunt the wily political survivor as frustration sets in over lack of change. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) “will take all seats across the country,” spokesman Sok Eysan told AFP at party headquarters, hailing “a landslide victory”.
In response the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country’s only real opposition who were disbanded before the poll, issued a statement lamenting “the death of democracy” and a “new, dark day” in Cambodian history. Some 8.3 million people registered to cast their ballots in the vote Cambodia’s sixth general election since United Nations-sponsored polls were held in 1993 after decades of conflict. Sok Eysan said the predicted clean sweep was based on initial results. Final figures are due August 15.
Asked about the country turning into a one-party state, the CPP spokesman said it was “the decision of the people,” adding that Cambodia’s constitution allows for a multi-party system. But the ballot lacked any serious challengers after Hun Sen cracked down on the opposition last year, leading to the arrest one of its leaders and then the dissolution of the party by the Supreme Court. Opposition figures had urged a boycott of the poll. But election authorities warned they would take action against those pressing for a “clean-finger” campaign and pointed to an 82 percent turnout as evidence that the boycott call had failed.
Experts say high turnouts are common in authoritarian states where voter intimidation is more widespread. Yet in a sign of a kickback from unhappy voters, around 600,000 ballots around 10 percent of the total were spoiled, according to a preliminary count by the National Election Commission.