The election result is a foregone conclusion, with long-time strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) the only significant party permitted to run and expected to win most of the seats. A low turnout has been predicted, with large numbers of CNRP supporters expected to stay away from the polls. Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling party has conducted a systematic crackdown against the opposition CNRP by dissolving the party, imprisoning its leaders and activists, and banning 118 of its senior members from politics for five years. The government has also shut down independent media, throttled civil society and quieted dissenting voices. The crackdown has taken place under the pretext that Hun Sen’s opponents are involved with foreign powers in conspiring to mount a so-called “Color Revolution” to topple his government.
1. Ominous warnings employed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) ahead of the election. These include warnings of civil war and repeated threats to smash people’s heads with bamboo poles, smash opponents’ teeth in, calls to eliminate 100-200 people, and advice to opponents to prepare your coffin.
2. The bias of the National Election Committee (NEC) is demonstrated by its composition, with most of its nine leading members CPP-aligned officials. There are no representatives from civil society or the opposition to ensure its independence and neutrality.
3. Repressive laws: The CPP-controlled national assembly spent the last five years crafting new laws designed to increase government control and restrict the democratic space for media, the opposition party, civil society, NGOs, independent trade unions, and other dissenting voices.
These laws include:
4. Election observers mostly from countries with thin or no democratic credentials: The UN, US and EU have decided they will not monitor this election. The 50,000 observers the government claims will watch the vote, include 17 international observers who hail from China, Russia and Singapore.
5. Vote buying with populism and demagoguery: Hun Sen conducted campaigns for his ruling party at least a year ahead of the election, personally meeting with nearly 700,000 garment workers and handing them US$5.00 to each, which cost Cambodian taxpayers US$3.5 million. His ruling party also introduced several attractive incentive packages, including a pay raise for civil servant, special allowances for workers and pregnant women, and free transportation.
6. Gerrymandering and electoral boundary manipulation: After suffering a major loss to the opposition, Kompong Cham province was split into two; the eastern half of Kompong Cham became the nation’s newest province, known as Tbaung Khmum. Three new districts -- Chbar Amp, Prek Pnov, and Chroy Changva -- were added to Phnom Penh’s existing nine districts, ahead of the first municipal/provincial council election in May 2014.
7. Moves toward hereditary dynastic regime: Several months ahead of the election, Hun Sen’s oldest son, Hun Manet, was widely publicized by government-aligned media in his unprecedented introductory meeting with regional leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Hun Manet has recently been promoted to four-star general and elevated to serve as acting Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and acting RCAF head of Joint Chiefs of Staff, in addition to his present duty as Commander of Cambodia’s National Counter Terrorism Special Force.
8. Relentless crackdown against the opposition and civil society: The main opposition party the CNRP was dissolved ahead of the election, and 118 of its senior members were banned from politics for five years. In addition, 55 elected CNRP lawmakers’ seats along with the 5,007 commune/sangkat councilors’ seats it held nationwide were redistributed to other minor parties that failed to secure popular votes in previous elections. At least 30 opposition party members, activists and civil society members have been arrested or are currently in jail, including CNRP President Kem Sokha. Meanwhile, former CNRP President Sam Rainsy has been embroiled in almost a dozen lawsuits that have resulted in jail terms and countless fines. Under the pretext of combatting a supposed Color Revolution, the National Democratic Institute, a US NGO, was expelled, while the Situation Room, a group of more than 40 NGO election monitors, was shut down. The environmental NGO Mother Nature was forcefully closed.
9. Media clampdown: The Cambodia Daily shut down after 24 years of operation due to a spurious tax bill, while RFA closed its nearly 20-year old Phnom Penh’ bureau. The Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia’s last bastion of independent media, was thrown into turmoil and taken over through a controversial deal by new owner believed to be government aligned. The government has shut down nearly 20 independent radio stations, while online news and social media face strict government controls.
10. A government disinformation campaign, featuring fake news: In the run-up to the election, through its tightly controlled media, the ruling party launched an endless disinformation campaign, which included spreading fake news to attack opposition politicians, activists and civil society and NGO members. The campaign swiftly turned went dirty, as the loyal Fresh News media outlet distributed leaked private phone conversations and other information allegedly from individuals whom the government was targeting in its surveillance.
11. Phony or questionable “opposition” parties: Including the ruling CPP, 20 political parties will participate in the election. Yet these 19 political parties are little-known, minor and insignificant parties that exist only during election season and disappear afterward. They are being dubbed ‘ampil ampek’ (firefly parties) or ‘aph’ (disembodied ghosts) and some of them are fully aligned with the CPP, created in order to uphold a façade of electoral competition.
12. Cambodia’s entire political system is run to support Hun Sen’s political machinations, giving him no chance of losing. As the CPP and Hun Sen put it: “The CPP will always win and govern the country FOREVER.”
Cambodia’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the country’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) be dissolved for its part in plotting a “coup” against the government, essentially eliminating any competition to Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of a general election next year.
Radio Free Asia has decided to close its nearly 20-year old bureau in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh amid a relentless crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen's authoritarian regime on independent media ahead of critical polls next year, RFA President Libby Liu announced Tuesday.
Cambodian civil society expressed shock on Sunday at the shooting death of an activist and critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, a killing that came amid months of political tensions as the country faces elections next year.
Cambodia’s increasingly dictatorial government under Prime Minister Hun Sen is propped up by a core group of “ruthless” generals in the security forces, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report Thursday, describing the men as among the country’s worst rights offenders.
Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni left the country on Thursday for a medical checkup in China, a day after the country’s Senate approved a new law making it a crime to insult the monarch along with controversial changes to several articles of the constitution.
Cambodia’s acting head of state signed into effect a controversial new amendment to the country’s Law on Political Parties Friday, as international and domestic nongovernmental organizations slammed the legislation they said will undermine the democratic process ahead of general elections set for next year.
Cambodia’s National Assembly on Monday approved four amendments to the country’s electoral law, paving the way for 55 seats held by opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers to be redistributed to smaller government-aligned parties in the event that it is dissolved.
Cambodia’s parliament passed a controversial law on Monday on the regulation of nongovernmental organizations with unanimous approval by ruling-party lawmakers, amid a boycott by the opposition and a last-ditch attempt by protestors to convince the representatives to scrap the restrictive legislation.
The Cambodian Senate has overwhelmingly approved new controversial labor legislation that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party says is necessary to regulate trade unions, but opponents say is just a way to dilute workers’ power.
Cambodia’s opposition-boycotted parliament has unanimously approved a set of judicial laws that rights groups say will give Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government effective control over the judiciary and further undermine the independence of courts.
The European Union on Thursday launched a week-long fact-finding mission to assess Cambodia’s compliance with its human rights obligations as dictated by a tariff-free export scheme the country benefits from when sending goods to EU countries.