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Diplomatic, Strategic Challenges for Ruling Party, Analysts Say

An Egyptian youth carries a lit flare as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood gather in the El-Mataria neighborhood of Cairo, to protest the 20-year sentence for ousted president Mohammed Morsi and verdicts against other prominent figures of the Brotherhood.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is fighting challenges to his authority from both inside and outside the country, following July’s flawed elections.

And though his administration has been successful so far in controlling the internal challenge, Hun Sen is still facing a diplomatic challenge, says Chheang Vannarith, a lecturer in Asia-Pacific studies at the University of Leeds in the UK.

“His next strategic focus will be on winning support from the international community,” he said. “Neighboring countries are the most important diplomatic partners, while major powers like China and the US are strategic partners. If Prime Minister Hun Sen can succeed in convincing the US and EU, then his power base will be stable. To do that he needs to strengthen the Cambodian role in Asean, knowing that both US and EU really need Asean to maintain peace, stability, and development in the region, especially in checking the rising power of China.”

Chheang Vannarith said he believes Hun Sen has a “high chance of success” in shoring up his power and keeping it. “We need to see the big picture here. Strategic interests and their calculation among the major powers are taking full swing this year, while in 2013 it was more a tactical competition.”

The international community wants to see stability and development in the region, so they are looking for partners in Southeast Asia, providing an opportunity for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, he said. “If Cambodia can strengthen its potential role in Asean under the leadership of the CPP, the EU and the United States may reduce pressure on the Phnom Penh government.”

Sok Touch, dead of Khemarak Univserity in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer Hun Sen is making a push to show that his government is legitimate and has support in the region and internationally.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has called for foreign countries to discount the current government, due to what it says were fraudulent elections in July. But the CPP is working to show “that they are strong and consistently moving foreword,” Sok Touch said. “Although under any circumstances, they do have support from the region and the world, this is a gesture to show their rivals, which are telling the world to pressure them in every field, such as in economic or diplomatic pressure.”

That also means striking a balance between Cambodia’s relationships with Vietnam and China, he said.

Meanwhile, neither the ruling party nor the opposition has been able to move forward in political negotiations, so a deadlock remains.

Schanley Kuch, an independent analyst in Maryland, told VOA Khmer that both parties are seeking victory, while failing to seek actual solutions.

“So the opposition is asking powerful countries to stop giving aid and to pressure the Phnom Penh government,” he said. “As for the Phnom Penh government, they are trying to pretend to normalize the situation, so that it seems there is not thing wrong in the formation of the government.”