PHNOM PENH — Final results showed Cambodia’s ruling party swept elections last month for the National Assembly, ensuring long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen another term but reinforcing skepticism of the vote’s legitimacy.
The National Election Committee confirmed Wednesday the Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats in the National Assembly in the July 29 vote. The only credible opposition force, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was disbanded last year by the courts, seen as aligned with Hun Sen, and the 19 parties that did compete in the vote were almost all vanity vehicles or meant to give the illusion of democracy.
The vote itself also has been questioned since the CNRP had called for a voter boycott, but the official turnout was a high 83 percent. Hun Sen’s party also won more than two-thirds of the vote in every province.
The new parliament is to convene on Sept. 5, and the next government is to be installed on Sept. 6. Hun Sen, who has held power for 33 years, will receive another five-year term.
“This result shows that our compatriots fully believed in the right leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party which is led by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Hun Sen said on his Facebook page after the announcement of the official results, adding that voting for his party meant voting for peace and development for the entire country.
He called the July 29 election free and fair and said it was conducted according to the principle of democracy.
In a speech to garment workers Wednesday, Hun Sen said he wanted to offer prominent government posts to the leaders of the 19 other parties that contested the elections.
Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled founder of the opposition CNRP and Hun Sen’s chief political nemesis, said the official voting results were fraudulent.
On his Facebook page, he said the vote totals were inflated by 2 million – purportedly cast in the names of non-voters but counted for the ruling party.
He said the National Election Committee was able to play tricks because the election body is under the ruling party’s control.
Several established poll-watching groups – as well as national contingents from the United States and the European Union – declined to take part because they felt the polls were not legitimate. One of the bigger Cambodian groups participating in poll-watching was led by one of Hun Sen’s sons.
Hun Sen’s party was alarmed by the results of the last general election in 2013, when the race was close enough for the opposition to claim that it would have won had it not been for manipulation of the voter registration process.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court last November ordered the opposition CNRP dissolved on the pretext that it had conspired with the United States to overthrow the government. It banned its leaders from holding office for five years and expelled its members from the elective positions they held. Sam Rainsy already was in exile and the other party founder, Kem Sokha, was in jail awaiting trial on the treason charge.
Hun Sen’s government also silenced critical voices in the media. Over the past year, about 30 radio stations shut down and two English-language newspapers that provided serious reporting were gutted, one forced to close and the other put under ownership friendly to the government.
The United States in December imposed visa restrictions on top Cambodian officials because of the anti-democratic actions taken in the lead-up to the elections, and it said after the vote it was disappointed by the “flawed elections.”
On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. would expand those visa restrictions and in certain cases apply them to immediate family members of the individuals the U.S. had deemed responsible for undermining Cambodian democracy. More details weren’t given.
Story: Sopheng Cheang