Cambodia’s Ruling Party to Form New Government Within Two Months of Election

By Joshua Lipes
cambodia-hun-senballot-july-2018.jpg Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen holds his ballot at a polling station in Takhmua, Kandal province, July 29, 2018.
AP Photo

Cambodia’s ruling party announced Tuesday that it will form a new government within two months, according to media reports, as criticism continued to mount over the fairness of a general election it swept over the weekend, following the dissolution of the country’s main opposition group in November.

Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan told Reuters news agency that King Norodom Sihamoni will invite the newly elected members of the National Assembly, or parliament, to a meeting within 60 days of the July 29 polls.

“After the meeting, a government will then be formed,” he said, as well as a “new cabinet.”

“It will be between Sept. 25 and 26.”

The announcement came as the CPP reiterated claims that it had won all 125 parliamentary seats up for grabs in Sunday’s election, which Prime Minister Hun Sen called “free, fair and just” in a Facebook post on Tuesday, despite widespread criticism from the international community over a crackdown on political parties, NGOs and independent media in the lead up to the polls.

While ballots are still being counted and an official announcement is not expected until mid-August, unconfirmed preliminary results indicate a strong CPP showing, ensuring long-ruling strongman Hun Sen will add another five-year term to his 33 years in office.

The former head of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was dissolved in November by the Supreme Court amid allegations it plotted to overthrow the government, called the election a “sham,” in an interview Tuesday with Reuters from his apartment in Paris, where he is living in self-imposed exile to avoid convictions seen as politically motivated.

“It was a farce, a sham election, it doesn't represent the will of the people,” he said.

A day earlier, in a statement issued from Jakarta, Indonesia, other CNRP officials had called on the international community to reject the outcome of the election and for governments to “refrain from doing business with Hun Sen’s regime.”

The CNRP received more than 3 million votes—accounting for nearly half of the country’s registered voters—in Cambodia’s 2013 general election, and enjoyed similar success in last year’s commune ballot, making it the only legitimate challenger to the CPP before it was dissolved.

CNRP officials had called for a boycott to protest their party’s exclusion from the election, in the face of threats from authorities to withhold licenses, land registration and other government services from voters who did not turn out.

While more than 82 percent of registered voters cast 6,946,164 ballots on Sunday, Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC), the top electoral body, acknowledged that more than nine percent were invalid, with observers suggesting that many of the votes were intentionally spoiled to protest what was seen as a bogus poll.

International concerns

Meanwhile, governments from around the world registered their concerns with the election following a statement from the White House on Sunday, which expressed regret that the polls “were neither free nor fair and failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people” and said it would consider broadening sanctions against Cambodian officials.

On Monday, the European Union said in a statement that “the lack of genuine electoral competition and the absence of an inclusive political process mean that the 29 July election is not representative of the democratic will of the Cambodian electorate, and therefore its outcome lacks credibility.”

Both the U.S. and EU had withdrawn support for the elections ahead of Sunday, citing actions seen as limiting democracy in Cambodia, and the EU is currently reviewing a preferential trade scheme for Cambodian exports amid Hun Sen’s political crackdown.

On Tuesday, New Zealand and Germany both called for Cambodia’s government to restore democratic principles in the country.

Hun Sen has repeatedly stressed that his country does not need foreign governments to recognize the legitimacy of its elections, saying acceptance by Cambodians is sufficient.

He has also said that he will continue to welcome aid from China, which is poised to overtake the U.S. as the world’s top foreign donor, and which is currently Cambodia’s largest international aid provider.

China, which typically offers aid to countries without many of the prerequisites that the U.S. and EU place on donations, such as improvements to human rights, offered “sincere congratulations” to Hun Sen’s party for its showing in the weekend polls. Communist Vietnam also recognized the poll results.


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