Premier's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) dominated the elections on Sunday, July 23, garnering more than 82 percent of the vote
By Tommaso Magrini
As widely predicted, Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) dominated the elections in Cambodia on Sunday, July 23, garnering more than 82 percent of the vote. In fact, the Cambodian People's Party was unrivaled. The only credible opposition force, the Candlelight Party, was unable to stand in the election due to technical-bureaucratic issues, and the other 17 contending parties were too weak to challenge the prime minister, who has been in power since 1985 with a brief hiatus after the 1993 elections. Hun Sen's party won 120 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly. The royalist Funcinpec got 9.2 percent of the vote winning the remaining five seats. According to official figures, about 84 percent of eligible voters (8.1 million Cambodians out of 9.7 million voters) cast ballots, and 5.7 percent of ballots were invalid (432,000 invalid votes). The government promised legal action against those who spoiled the ballots, a form of protest that opposition members of the CPP had asked to join. Already during the counting stages there were some arrests. After months of speculation, shortly before the vote Hun Sen declared that he would leave the role of premier to his son Hun Manet "within three or four weeks." Hun Manet, commander of the Cambodian army, ran for the first time in this round of elections in one of the seats in the capital Phnom Penh, which he won without issue. In all likelihood, however, Hun Sen will remain chairman of the CPP, a role from which he should be able to maintain control over the government's policy direction. Analysts had expected a longer transition, but Hun Sen would seem to want to accelerate to preside over his son's rise while he is still in strength and with a strong grip on the party and country to which, after the troubled history of the last century, he has been able to ensure stability and economic growth.