Cambodia’s ruling party gets reelected, causes backlash

On Sunday, Cambodia’s general election results caused for backlash from rights groups and the Trump administration. The former called the ruling party’s victory illegitimate and the latter “flawed”.

The Cambodian People’s Party, which had already been in power since the eighties, ended up victorious in this year’s elections. It is speculated that the Party won votes from 70% of the population, which would leave them with 100 seats in the National Assembly out of 125.

As in previous Cambodian elections, very few parties had the popularity to match the CPP at the polls, and in this case, only the Cambodian National Rescue Party was a potential challenger. However, the party was dismantled last year by the country’s Supreme Court, which caused for many to suspect that the CPP had involvement in the process.

The White House was eager to respond to the victory, with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders releasing a statement that read:

[The vote] neither free nor fair and failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people. The flawed elections … represent the most significant setback yet to the democratic system enshrined Cambodia’s constitution, and substantially erode Cambodia’s achievements in promoting political reconciliation and economic growth.”

According to the National Election Committee, more than 6.8 million registered voters cast ballots on election day. There were some attempts from the CNRP to hold back voters from casting ballots after they were dismantled, but this turnout would indicate otherwise. The numbers show over 0.2 million more voters than in the country’s last elections in 2013.

The opposition has offered two possible theories around why the boycotting efforts didn’t work. Voters from rural areas usually go through retaliation from local officials, which could have intimidated many of them and pressured them into voting. There is also the fact that several established poll-watching groups decided to drop their projects, as they called polls illegitimate.

Another reason for the boycott’s failure may be the Cambodian Prime Minister’s frequent efforts to silence opposition, closing radio stations, and newspapers. The PM had also stated his intentions to keep himself in power for two other five-year terms.

Members of the CNRP have now called for people to engage in peaceful protests.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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