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Cambodian Ruling Party Posts Complete Electoral Sweep

FILE - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures while speaking in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 1, 2018.
FILE - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures while speaking in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 1, 2018.

The ruling party of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has won all 125 parliamentary seats in last month's election, which has been denounced by outlawed opposition forces as illegitimate.

The National Election Committee said Wednesday that voter turnout for the July 29 balloting was 83 percent, despite the absence of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved last year by the Supreme Court. Nineteen smaller parties participated in the election, but put up only token opposition.

The landslide victory by the Cambodian People's Party ensures that Prime Minister Hun Sen will extend his 33-year grip on power once the new parliament convenes next month. He defended the elections as free and fair in a message posted on Facebook Wednesday, and praised Cambodians for choosing peace and development.

Sam Rainsy, the exiled leader of the CNRP, accused the National Election Committee of inflating the voter turnout numbers in a written statement. He said the NEC of "playing tricks" with the results because it is under the control of the CPP.

Western skepticism

Several Western governments pulled their support for the election, and a number of independent election monitors declined to take part after the CNRP was dissolved.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. will expand visa restrictions imposed late last year on high-ranking Cambodians "responsible for the most notable anti-democratic actions" taken in the run-up to the elections, which she called "flawed." Nauert said the new restrictions may apply to individuals both inside and outside the government, as well their immediate family members.

The court ruling dissolving the CNRP capped an apparent crackdown on dissenting voices launched by Hun Sen to avoid a repeat of the last national election in 2013, when he and his ruling government were nearly defeated.

The repressive moves include the arrest of CNRP co-leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason, which led half of the party's lawmakers to flee, and the closure of The Cambodia Daily, one of the country's last independent newspapers, after the publishers received an exorbitant overdue tax bill they said was bogus.