Sat, Feb 24, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Cambodian ruling party expected to dominate election

Reuters, PHNOM PENH

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is poised to sweep a Senate election over the weekend, helping to consolidate his rule of more than 30 years amid a crackdown on the opposition.

Tomorrow’s election for 58 members of the 62-member Senate will see 123 members of parliament and 11,572 commune councilors vote at 33 polling stations across the country. Two senators each are appointed by the king and the Cambodian National Assembly.

However, rights groups and opposition politicians have said the Senate vote is a farce that shows Hun Sen, who faces a national election in July, is not committed to multiparty democracy.

Almost half of the commune councilors have been stripped of their right to vote in tomorrow’s election after their opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by a court in November last year at the request of Hun Sen’s government.

“It’s the first time the Senate election will be held without the main opposition, without competition,” said Koul Panha of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, an election watchdog.

About 5,007 CNRP commune councilors, or 44 percent of the 11,572 eligible to vote, had been stripped of their voting rights, he added.

“It’s neither democratic nor free and fair,” he said.

Only three small political parties are contesting the vote, apart from the CPP.

“I expect that we will win by a lot,” said Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman in the running for tomorrow’s election. “It is 100 percent sure that I will be elected.”

The CPP was the only party to hold rallies during the 14-day campaign period leading up to the vote, the Cambodian National Election Committee said.

The Senate, whose members have six-year terms, is seen as a rubber-stamp institution, but the president has constitutional power to sign bills into law when the king is abroad.

Dissolution of the CNRP was followed by the arrest of its leader, Kem Sokha, last year for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government with US help, an accusation both the US and Kem Sokha have rejected.

The CNRP ban effectively removes any major obstacles to Hun Sen’s re-election in July.

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