The Cambodian people’s party (CPP) of Cambodia has declared victory of it’s candidate Hun Sen, even though the results have not been fully counted, according to the Washington Post. The election is described to be “unfair” and the win was predicted because of the lack of an opposition party, according to the Guardian. Hun Sen himself has declared that he won the elections fairly, even under international condemning, according to the former newspaper. The Guardian also reported that he has announced to his people the result by saying “You have truly chosen the path of democracy”.
According to Reuters News agency, Sok Eysan, the country’s chief government spokesman, has confirmed that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won majority in parliament, getting 100 out of 125 out of the seats and eighty percent of the total number of votes. Many activists are calling out that Hun Sen has destroyed most oppositional parties. Most importantly is the CNRP, that was forcefully dissolved in November 2017 because of a persistent government effort. In order to further damage the opposition, the government also ordered the jailing of Kem Sokha, CNRP former leader, for around thirty years sentence on treason charges and that he presumably collided with foreigners, Al-Jazeera reports. Sam Rainsy, who used to be the president of the party but is currently in exile has remarked to the news agency that “the election was a “hollow” victory for Hun Sen”.
After this heavy crackdown on dissents, there are no more current viable options for Cambodians to choose to represent them besides the CPP. According to Al-Jazeera, the ballot included lesser-known parties that seemed to only be a somewhat a sham challenge to the main party (CPP). The victory has spared contvorcy and some scholars are suspecting this election to be the end of democracy in Cambodia. The election comes at a time where the People’s party led by Hun Sen, have also limited the freedom of speech by locking up journalists, Reuters News Agency Reports. The White House on its part has declared its intention to discuss measures to increase pressure on the Cambodian government by restricting visa options, according to Reuters News Reporting Agency. The agency also reported that the European Union is threatening the country with economic sanctions.
The gradual transition to a less democratic system has also affected voter turnout. According to Al-Jazeera, the national election agency, has reported “voter turnout at about 80 percent”. “In the 2013 election, 69 percent of eligible voters participated, and in local elections last year, turnout was nearly 90 percent”. But many were forced to show up to the polls and the results may have been tampered with in some areas in the country.
Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia since 1985, and is considered to be one of the “longest serving” prime ministers, according to the BBC. In his 33 year reign, he has enabled economic growth and development, but also broke many human rights laws on multiple occasions, according to the former news agency. While he has had competition in the past, these elections are clear warning that he may be leading the country to an authoritarian regime gradually.
Cambodian civilians are being threatened indirectly to vote for Hun Sen. The Guardian reported that the prime minister have warned in his final speech, prior to the election that absent voters are traitors, and that they are responsible for the death of democracy. This along with other information about the use of intimidation to coriese working class people to vote or threatened lose their jobs are very concerning. Other intimidation techniques have also included the cutting of services such as water or electricity if people decided against voting, according to the Guardian. When they did vote, there is 25-30 percent chance that their votes were spoiled to ensure that Sen won, according to the Fund for Reconciliation and Development NGO Executive Director John McCauliff.
The threat of authoritarianism often correlates with loss of personal freedoms and human rights crimes. If the situation remains the same in Cambodia, the international community must intervene before it becomes too late for the Cambodian people to preserve their rights. The EU and the US are on the right track in enforcing measure to pressure the Cambodian government. On the other hand, these techniques should also consider ways in which the civilians could not be harmed economically or socially.
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