Cambodian political parties concluded campaigning on Friday ahead of a general election expected to be a comfortable victory for the ruling party under Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Speaking to tens of thousands of supporters in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen appealed to the electorate to vote for the Cambodian People’s Party, which he said would guarantee peace, stability, and economic development.
“I would like to declare to all the members of the party that I will not lead the party to lose and I will not lead the government or lead the country to a bloody situation like in the past,” he said.
“Where there is peace, there is development and when the developments can be maintained, peace can be maintained,” he added.
He promised national reforms that included lowering utility bills and raising wages for workers.
Hun Sen added that he would continue to work against “traitors” in an indirect reference to the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, which came close to defeating the ruling party in the 2013 election despite widespread reports of irregularities in the vote.
The CNRP was dissolved in November by the CPP-controlled Supreme Court. The international community and rights groups have criticized Hun Sen for a widespread crackdown on dissent, civil society and independent media ahead of the election.
“We commit to defending peace even though we have to pay any price,” he said.
“We have punished those who commit acts of destroying peace.”
Kem Sokha, the CNRP president, remains in jail on treason charges, while the prosecution has yet to present evidence to support the claim.
Many Cambodians support the CPP due to its investment in numerous local development projects.
Dy Na, 28, said he would support the CPP because it was responsible for building roads, bridges, and schools.
“I can say that this is the support since the beginning, my mother and father’s generation and it has won all the time. Everything today develops so much so I want the development to continue,” he said.
Some 19 minor political parties will contest seats with the CPP.
Kham Phan, 55, a supporter of the League for Democracy Party (LDP), a party formed by Khem Veasna, a former candidate for the Sam Rainsy party, said he wanted the party to fix what he sees as a broken system.
“When a car’s breaks are broken it will go off-road and when we don’t fix the car or change the driver then we try to drive, it will collapse,” he said. “But Khem Veasna will fix the car, so this is a very important system.”
Hang Puthea, National Election Committee spokesman, said the election campaign had passed without incident “because of the cooperation between the political parties with NEC officials on every level, especially the people who understand although there has been a heavy traffic congestion, they accept the reality and allow the campaigns to go smoothly.”
In his concluding remarks to supporters, Hun Sen warned Cambodians who will boycott the vote.
“Remember this: It is only people who go to vote that support democracy. Those who oppose the election destroy the nation and democracy, which should be handled with zero tolerance,” he said.
Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin, Kann Vicheika, Khan Sokummono and Aun Chhengpor