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Cambodia - 2018 Elections

Cambodias ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) said on 29 July 2018 that it won a general election that rights groups said was neither free nor fair. With no real opposition to speak of, Prime Minister Hun Senwas widely expected to win. But critics called the election asham because of a campaign of intimidation by Hun Sen and his allies against critics and the dissolution of the main opposition party in 2017. CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said his party won an estimated 125 out of 125 parliamentary seats.

Invalid ballots totalled 9.11 percent of votes with the royalist FUNCINPEC coming in third with 5.82 percent of the vote. The National Election Committee (NEC) said the turnout rate was 6.8 million registered voters, or 82.2 percent suggesting that a boycott called for by the Cambodian National Rescue Party failed in the face of threats from authorities to withhold licenses, land registration and other government services from voters who did not turn out.

After 33 years of ruling Cambodia with an iron fist, Prime Minister Hun Sen a former soldier in the Khmer Rouge strengthened his grip on power in 2018 parliamentary elections. On the campaign trail, the Cambodian ruler promised his opponents hell and asked them to prepare their coffins for a disputed result all the while emphasising that he wants to stay in power for the next two terms. Hun Sen became prime minister in 1985, at just 32, and he managed to adapt to the ever-changing political climate his country has seen since the Cold War.

Campaigning for Cambodias July 29 elections started July 7, but with the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) governments decision in November 2017 to ban its only challenger, the CNRP, last year, the role of politics has become somewhat of a moot point. Members of the former opposition have said the election is fake and that voting for any party would be a win for the CPP and Hun Sen.

Defense minister, Tea Banh, warned on 14 May 2017 that the army will smash the teeth of anyone protesting a win by the ruling party in the June 4 elections. If you lose the elections and contest the results by taking to the streets to protest, we will smash your teeth, the defense minister said. Im warning you in strong terms that we wont allow such protests again.

The government has been keen to give off the image of a free and open election, touting the high numbers of observers in response to the withdrawal of election funding by the European Union and the United States and decision not to observe the election by a number of prominent and respected NGOs.

There may be 20 parties on the ballot this year, but none can compete with the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which is expected to dominate the polls. The prime minister has stacked election monitoring positions with close allies. The unprecedented crackdown on dissent by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government has included dissolving the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, jailing its president and other party officials, closing the independent newspaper, The Cambodia Daily and restricting the right of assembly and protest, both central to liberal democracies.

CPPs support has been strongest in rural areas, where the need for electricity, clean water, educational achievement and jobs is most acute. In the 2017 commune elections, the CNRP won more commune seats in the capital, Phnom Penh, and other more developed provinces such as Siem Reap and Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom, the CPP lost to the CNRP. In Phnom Penh alone, where 899 commune seats were in play, the CPP took 431 and the CNRP won 468. In Kampong Cham, Hun Sens home province the CPP took 380 and the CNRP took 435 of the 817 commune seats.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on 24 May 2017 repeated his warning that opposition victories in local elections and parliamentary polls in 2018 would bring war to the country, saying his ruling Cambodian People's Party could lose patience and "burn down your homes." Hun Sen, who had ruled the Southeast Asian country since 1985, used a three-hour speech to some 4,000 Christians in Phnom Penh, to drive home a threat that he has made several times in the run up to the June 4 commune elections.

The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party - CNRP one of 12 political parties competing for 1,646 commune council seatscould give the CPP a run for its money in the June polls, foreshadowing a possible CNRP win in national elections scheduled for 2018.

Unofficial results showed the CPP won 22 provinces while the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won two major cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as well as in Kompong Cham province. With more than 85 percent of the Southeast Asian country's 7.86 million registered voters casting ballots in rural commune and urban sangkat council elections, the CPP secured 1163 commune/sangkat chief posts, the CNRP won 482; and one commune leader post went to the Khmer National United Party.

For the commune councilor seats, the CPP received 5,347, the CNRP got 4,518, the royalist Funcinpec Party earned 28, the Khmer National United Party got 23, the Grassroots Democracy Party gained five, the League for Democracy Party earned four, and the Beehive Social Democracy Party got one. The CPP received 3,540,056 votes, or 50.76 percent of the total votes, and the CNRP got 3,056,824 votes, or 43.83 percent.

The 14-day campaign period that began on 20 May 2017 was relatively calm, but took place against the backdrop of frequent warnings from Hun Sen, who had ruled for nearly 32 years, that opposition victories in parliamentary polls in 2018 will bring chaos, instability and war to Cambodia.

Cambodia expected to hold a general election in 2018. Cambodia held a Senate Election on Feb. 25 and a National Election on July 29, and planned to spend around U.S. $50 million organizing the two votes.

In November 2017, Cambodias Supreme Court disbanded the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and barred 118 of its officials from politics for five years for the partys involvement in an alleged plot to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sens government. CNRP President Kem Sokha had been in pre-trial detention since his arrest in September on charges of treason.

The National Assembly reallocated the CNRPs parliamentary seats to Hun Sens ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) and three government-aligned political parties, while the CNRPs elected local officials have been pressured to defect to the CPP or lose their positions. CNRP officials who do not declare their assets within 30 days of leaving office risk imprisonment.

China will donate equipment to assist in Cambodias 2018 elections, including computers and ballot boxes, according to Cambodias top electoral body, weeks after the U.S. and EU withdrew support amid a crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). NGOs in Cambodia expressed concern over the plans, saying the Communist nations involvement undermines the ballots and calling instead for election officials to seek assistance from democratic governments.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Center for Development and Peace (PDP), told RFAs Khmer Service that Chinese electoral aid should end with supplies and funding. Im afraid there will be issues if China provides technical assistance to the NEC as well, he said. Chinas involvement is not good for Cambodia, as China is a communist country that has no experience in democratic elections.

The statement followed announcements by the U.S. and EU that they had withdrawn funding for next years elections in response to a crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sens government on the CNRP, which saw its chief Kem Sokha arrested on charges of treason and the party dissolved for allegedly trying to incite a rebellion with Washingtons backing. The U.S and EU said that Kem Sokhas arrest and the dissolution of the CNRP had essentially eliminated any viable challenge to Hun Sens ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) and called the legitimacy of the ballots into question.

The controversy over Beijings assistance in the elections came as Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak confirmed that the royalist Funcinpec party will face no investigation for soliciting funding from China, despite an article in Cambodias Law on Political Parties which bans parties from receiving financial support from foreign governments and organizations. Funcinpec President Norodom Ranariddh told reporters that he had requested financial assistance from Wang Weiguang, the president of the official Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He said Funcinpec had already received some equipment.

With the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) disbanded in Cambodia and its leader Kem Sokha in prison over treason allegations, its top members abroad are calling on their followers to boycott the elections. "After the recent political crackdown by Hun Sen, democracy is definitely dead in Cambodia. Even its facade has crumbled," said Sam Rainsy, the former CNRP leader who ran in the contested 2013 elections. "We call our supporters to boycott this sham election. In the present circumstances, an election without the CNRP as the only credible opposition party is meaningless."

The same law that was used to dissolve the CNRP for its alleged ties to a foreign government also bans political parties from receiving contributions from foreign institutions, companies, foreigners or organizations that are financed by foreign sources.

Hun Sen repeatedly stated that Cambodia does not need any foreign nation to legitimize its elections, saying that it is sufficient for Cambodians to recognize them. The prime minister has also said that Cambodia will be able to fund the NEC to organize the ballots.

Cambodias ruling party won all seats in elections for the countrys Senate on 25 February 2018. All 58 seats in the uncompetitive election went to the CPP on Sunday in voting open only to lawmakers and commune officials, with a total of 11,670 out of a possible 11,695 votes cast. This came three months after Cambodias Supreme Court dissolved the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, disenfranchising thousands of Prime Minister Hun Sens political opponents and forcing others into exile.

Unlike the scenes in 2013, when tens of thousands of supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party took to the streets, this years campaigning has lacked a competitive edge. But the CPP has worked hard to project the image of a healthy campaign, replete with high turnouts to pro-CPP events. the CPP wants to prevent a repeat of 2013, when only 60 percent of registered CPP members voted for the party.

The U.S. government called the elections neither free nor fair and said it would consider punitive measures including an expansion of visa restrictions on senior members of the regime. We are profoundly disappointed in the governments choice to disenfranchise millions of voters, who are rightly proud of their countrys development over the past 25 years, the White House office of the Press Secretary said in a statement 30 July 2018. The campaign was marred by threats from national and local leaders to punish those choosing not to vote. These actions denied the Cambodian people a voice and choice in determining the future of the country.



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