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Rights Groups Call Out Cambodia’s ‘Sham’ Election

Supporters of Cambodian People's Party gather for their last campaign for the July 29 general election, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 27, 2018. Political exiles and Western governments are raising concerns about whether Cambodia's elections this weekend will be free and fair. Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party has banned the main opposition party, jailed its leaders and other critics and shut independent media outlets. Opposition politicians in exile in the United States, Australia and elsewhere are using social media to urge voters to embrace a "clean finger campaign" and boycott the vote. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights said in a statement that the election would pave the way for Hun Sen to cement his uncontested power in Cambodia.

Two major international human rights groups have criticized the Cambodian government’s “flawed” election process two days before Cambodians go to the polls to elect a new leader.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to win a landslide victory after his party dissolved the country’s main opposition and an only real contender for the top job in November.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said in a statement on Thursday that the election would pave the way for Hun Sen to cement his uncontested power in Cambodia, adding that the election process was deeply flawed.

The European Union, United States, Japan, and others have declined to send observers to the election in a break with protocol.

“Governments concerned for Cambodia's future should denounce this electoral exercise as a cruel fraud against the Cambodian people,” Brad Adams, director of HRW’s Asia division, said in a statement.

“From the day the CNRP was dissolved, this election became a mockery of democracy and a preordained victory for the ruling party. Now it's up to the countries that committed so much to the 1991 Paris Peace Accords to help restore genuine democracy to Cambodia or accept the human rights consequences of an effectively one-party state,” he added.

Sunday’s general election is Cambodia’s first since 2013, when the now dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party won more than 40 percent of the popular vote, gaining 55 seats in Cambodia’s 123-seat legislature. The party was widely tipped as the only real electoral threat to Hun Sen’s three-decade rule of the country before it was banned by the Supreme Court.

Nineteen minor parties will also contest seats on Sunday.

In its statement, FIDH said the election was a “foregone conclusion” and a “sham process” that would pave the way for another five years of authoritarian rule under Hun Sen.

“Hun Sen's repression of any peaceful criticism, his obliteration of independent media, and the dissolution of the main opposition party have ensured that the election will not be credible. Cambodia's election is a sham process that is designed to prolong Hun Sen's authoritarian rule and will plunge the country into further misery and repression,” Debbie Stothard, secretary general of FIDH, said in the statement.

Both the CPP and National Election Committee reject the evidence of political repression pointed to by rights groups and foreign governments, claiming Cambodians are free to be the judge of the current leadership when they go to the polls on Sunday.