In Cambodia, the ruling party says it has won a “landslide victory” in the parliamentary elections. This was announced by a spokesman for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) before any counting results were announced. Long-term Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP is expected to retain all 125 seats in the lower house in Phnom Penh. According to preliminary figures from the Electoral Commission, the participation of the more than 9.7 million registered voters in the Southeast Asian country was at least 84 percent – at least two percentage points higher than in the last election in 2018.
With 38 years in office, Hun Sen, who is one of the longest-serving heads of government in the world, did everything in advance to cement his control over the country. The only serious competitor to Hun Sen’s CPP, the Candlelight Party, was expelled ahead of the elections for allegedly failing to register properly with the Electoral Commission. Critics were imprisoned or fled into exile, one of the last independent media called “Voice of Democracy” had to close.
Four-star general educated in US and UK
In addition, Hun Sen changed the electoral laws to ensure that anyone who did not vote this time would be excluded from future candidatures – this particularly affects opposition politicians in exile. In a joint statement on Saturday, 17 international non-governmental organizations criticized a “significant lack of transparency, fairness and inclusion in the election process”.
The 70-year-old wants to hand over the baton to his son Hun Manet (45), a four-star general trained in the United States and Great Britain, in the near future. This is considered modest and accessible. Hun Manet has already assumed important functions in the CPP. He could possibly be appointed the new head of government in the coming weeks – even if his father has already made it clear that he will continue to determine the fate of the country behind the scenes. Whether Hun Manet will initiate democratic change in Cambodia or ultimately continue his father’s autocratic style is completely open.
In the early 1970s, Hun Sen fought in Cambodia on the side of the communist Khmer Rouge against the US-backed ruler Lon Nol. In 1975 the guerrilla movement came to power, in 1977 Hun Sen went over to enemy Vietnam. After Vietnamese troops ended the Khmer Rouge’s tyranny in December 1978, Hun Sen was appointed head of government by Hanoi in 1985 at the age of 32. He holds the office to this day.
Under the leadership of Hun Sen, the Southeast Asian kingdom has undergone remarkable economic development. Nevertheless, large parts of the population suffer from corruption, poverty, a lack of educational opportunities and environmental destruction. Cambodia has also become synonymous with the global online fraud industry in the eyes of observers.
sti/uh (afp, dpa, epd)