The ruling party of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen claims it has won a landslide in Sunday’s general election, securing almost all of the 125 seats in parliament. The election was unopposed by the main political opposition group, the Candlelight Party, according to Sok Eysan, the spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP.
Sok Eysan said the party won by a margin of 78% to 80%. The National Election Committee said that voter turnout for the balloting was 84% among the 9.7 million people registered to cast ballots.
“One or two seats may be won by other parties,” Sok Eysan told VOA Khmer. “This is a great success and [a] landslide victory,” he added.
“The election shows the willingness of people who want peace and development in the country.”
There were around 300,000 spoiled ballots, according to Sok Eysan.
In an audio message, Hun Sen said the turnout means Cambodians participated in democracy by hitting back at Sam Rainsy, the exiled leader, who called for people to spoil the ballots by destroying, defacing or voiding them.
“People truly want happiness and progress under existing peace, and they want to get away from the extremists who always destroy [peace],” Hun Sen said.
Rainsy, the exiled leader of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, said there were irregularities in the electoral process, noting the doors and windows of most voting stations were closed as ballots were being counted.
“If they [CPP] maintain such secrecy, the results which are announced will have ZERO credibility,” he said in a Facebook post Sunday.
This is the second time that Cambodia has conducted an election without a main opposition party. In 2018, the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court and couldn’t participate in the election. The ruling CPP controlled all 125 seats in parliament in 2018.
Eighteen parties participated in Sunday’s election, but none proved competitive for the CPP. The CPP’s landslide victory ensures that Prime Minister Hun Sen will extend his 38-year grip on power as he prepares to hand power to his son, Hun Manet, a West Point graduate. Hun Sen hinted that his son could become the prime minister just after Sunday’s unopposed election.
In a video interview with China’s Phoenix TV, which was released Thursday, the prime minister said there were two leading candidates for the ruling party — himself and Hun Manet.
“It is also possible that in just three or four weeks, Hun Manet can become the prime minister. Let’s see what other people say,” said Hun Sen, who turns 71 next month.
“I am the one who makes the biggest sacrifice. Right now, I have an absolute power, but in about a month, I won't have the power to sign any bills the same way as I do today,” said Hun Sen, who is drawing closer to China. He added that the changeover was under consideration “not for my son” but because his family needs to continue to maintain peace in the Southeast Asian country.
Samrith Sophea, 44, a voter, said that the election process was biased due to the absence of the main opposition Candlelight Party.
“I think it is biased that the party which has a right to contest election is not registered to contest,” he said.
Authorities disqualified the Candlelight Party from participating in the election because its original paperwork was missing.
Kimsour Phirith, spokesperson for the party, said the move to ban the Candlelight Party from competing in the election was “unreasonable,” saying the election was not democratic, free or pluralistic.
Sroy Chheng, an activist with the Candlelight Party, said he voted because he wanted to be able to stand in the next election as required by a new amendment to the election law. The amendment, proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, required politicians to vote in this Sunday’s election so that they can run for office in the next election.
“I am not happy with this election. I just fulfilled my obligation,” he said.
Meach Huon, a voter in Kandal province, said he came to vote to choose a leader. However, he said he wants to see a real democracy in Cambodia.
“We want real democracy, but it is impossible now,” he said.