Landslide poll victory for Cambodia’s ruling party

July 30, 2008 at 3:08 am Leave a comment

The Irish Times – Tue, Jul 29, 2008 

FERGAL QUINN in Phnom Penh

Prime minister Hun Sen: set to gain tighter grip on power

CAMBODIA:PRELIMINARY RESULTS from Cambodia’s national assembly elections yesterday suggest that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has won an overwhelming victory.

The party’s projected win of 90 seats out of 123 – a gain of 17 from the 2003 election – exceeded expectations and will give Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for the past 23 years, an even tighter grip on power.

The broad consensus from international monitors was that election conditions on Sunday had improved from previous years.

But opposition parties yesterday urged the international community not to recognise the election, claiming it had been manipulated and rigged by the CPP.

However, the scale of the victory suggested that it had more to do with economic stability and steady improvement in basic infrastructure in a war-weary and poverty-stricken country, especially in rural areas, where the opposition made little progress in the election.

The scene at a polling station in Mepring commune, Kompong Cham province, on Sunday morning demonstrated the ruthless efficiency of the CPP political machine in hard-to-reach places.

As bored-looking monitors from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, Funcinpec and the Human Rights Party sat together twiddling their thumbs, CPP monitor Suon Sokhoeun, immaculate in a crisp white shirt, sat apart, staring intently at each voter as they passed by him to cast their ballot, before scribbling notes in a copybook.

“What’s your name?” he barked at a woman as she got her finger marked with ink. Startled, the woman told him immediately.

“There is no problem at this polling station,” Suon Sokhoeun said smoothly when there was a lull in voting activity. “I am just checking names to see who has voted and who has not.”

Outside, Chuop Thek (50), a CPP supporter, said: “I based my decision on who had done the most to help this area.”

Analysts are divided as to the possible effects on the poll of the escalating border dispute with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple site in the north, which has inflamed nationalist sentiment in recent weeks.

While some speculated that it would cause people to fear upsetting the status quo, others insisted that people voted along party lines regardless.

Although the election outcome was not unexpected, the poor result for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party has led some to worry that it might lead to a less representative democracy in Cambodia.

The party won three more seats than the 23 it achieved in 2003, a disappointing showing after its surge in support in 2003 and in the 2007 local elections. It also failed to capitalise on the collapse in support of the royalist Funcinpec party, whose seats mainly went to the CPP.

Kek Galabru of rights group Licadho said the result meant there would be less to check and balance the CPP.

The party has been regularly criticised by the international donor community, which still contributes 50 per cent of the national budget, over persistent allegations of human rights abuses, state-facilitated land-grabbing and corruption.


Entry filed under: Election. Tags: .

Temple dispute becomes war of words Cambodia poll shows improvements

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