In a 'sham' election, Cambodia's controversial ruling party says it won every seat after dismissing the opposition party

Omar Havana/Getty ImagesCambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
  • Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen extended his rule for another five years in an election critics have widely dismissed as a sham.
  • His party said it had it had won all 125 parliamentary seats up for grabs, with a high voter turnout of 82%.
  • The US and the EU have threatened the country with economic sanctions, and rights groups have called the election “fundamentally flawed.”
  • Hun Sen has been leading a crackdown on political opposition and independent media leading up to the election.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen tightened his grip on power Sunday, extending his rule for another five years in an election widely dismissed as a sham.

Hun Sen’s party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) said on Monday it had won all 125 parliamentary seats up for grabs, but critics widely dismissed the elections as undemocratic. The country’s election committee announced that 82% of the nation’s 8.3 million registered voters turned out.

The CPP has won every election since 1998, and this year marks Hun Sen’s 33rd year in power, making him one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers.

And while 20 parties were featured on the ballot, Cambodia’s Supreme Court in November dissolved the country’s main opposition party, Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), and charged its leader with treason in a move which ensured the 65-year-old incumbent ran uncontested.

Local and international experts have called the election a sham, and declared the election neither free nor fair.

The European Union has threatened Cambodia with economic sanctions, and the US House of Representatives passed an act on Wednesday which seeks “to promote free and fair elections” in the country and paves the way for sanctions to be imposed against Hun Sen’s inner circle.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Sunday’s vote “failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people.”

“The flawed elections, which excluded the country’s principal opposition party, represents the most significant setback yet to the democratic system enshrined in Cambodia’s constitution,” she said.

Former Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is living in exile abroad, decried the election on his Facebook page, adding that “a victory without a contest is a hollow one.”

“The result of this false election conducted in a climate of fear is a betrayal of the popular will,” Rainsy said.

Human Rights Watch last week called the electoral process in Cambodia “fundamentally flawed.”

“The Cambodian government over the past year has systematically cracked down on independent and opposition voices to ensure that the ruling party faces no obstacles to total political control,” Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, said.

The rights group also criticised the government’s sweeping crackdown on media, which has increased in recent months.

On Saturday, the government ordered internet service providers to block independent news websites, including Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Voice of Democracy, in the days leading up to and during the election.

In May, Cambodia’s last independent English-language daily, The Phom Penh Post, was sold to the owner of a public relations firm with links to Hun Sen.

The only other independent paper, the Cambodia Daily, was forced to shutter after being slammed with a $US6.3 million tax bill in September. Thirty-two radio stations have been closed and journalists have reported been followed by secret police.

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