Cambodia’s environment minister, Say Samal, has touted an era of “one-party parliament” following the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s landslide victory at the polls on Sunday.
Samal made the comments in an op-ed published in a widely read local daily newspaper, Rasmei Kampuchea, owned by his father, Senate President Say Chhum.
Despite evidence of a widespread crackdown on Cambodians’ political freedoms in the run-up to the poll, including the banning of the country’s main opposition party, Samal said the election had been “free and fair.”
“The result of this election reflects the will of the citizens who believe in democratic principles despite the campaign attempting to bar them from voting. The turnout rate of 82.87 percent clearly shows the failure of the opposition group who routinely use democracy as a pretext to cheat on the Cambodian people,” he wrote.
The CPP won about 76 percent of the popular vote, according to the National Election Committee, claiming all 125 seats in parliament.
Samal added that the “election result may come in the form of a parliament with one party, two parties, or multiple parties.”
“Whether it is the leadership of one-party or a multi-party parliament doesn’t matter, but what matters is that the government is created based on the will of the people, receiving the mandate from the people to secure peace and development,” he wrote, comparing Cambodia to Singapore.
Samal has become an important player in the CPP in recent years, surviving a cabinet reshuffle after the 2013 election that saw many old hands lose their positions.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday in his first post-election public appearance that the National Assembly will hold its first session of the new parliament on September 19.
The announcement comes amid warnings of further sanctions against the Cambodian government from the United States and European Union.
The governments of Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, France, and Sweden have all issued condemnations of the electoral process.
The opposition CNRP, which was dissolved ahead of the vote after its president was jailed on treason charges, has called the election a “sham”.
But China and neighboring countries Vietnam and Laos, all one-party states, have lent their support to Hun Sen.
In a meeting with his Cambodian counterpart Prak Sokhonn on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered Beijing’s public support and protection against foreign “interference” in the election.
Cambodia also signed a deal last year with Singapore, which has been ruled by the People’s Action Party since 1959, to create a “political consultation” project that oversees the exchange of young officials and sharing of leadership experiences.
While rights groups point to the decline in civil rights in Cambodia in recent years, Samal wrote that, while entitled to their opinion, they may not “violate the rights or distort the dignity of others, as stipulated by the laws, or shall not manipulate the facts that may harm the national security.”
Hang Vitou, a political commentator and founder of the Young Analysts Group, said the CPP would likely weather pressure from the international community and go back to business as usual.
“If the single-party parliament can be like Singapore’s model, with an anti-corruption mindset and fighting for social justice, I think it may work well. But Cambodia’s multi-party democratic society is embedded with corruption and political discrimination, I don’t think it [a one-party parliament] will work.”