Opposition hopes to win majority in Cambodia polls

Mr Kem Sokha, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, greeting supporters during a campaign rally in Prey Veng province yesterday.
Mr Kem Sokha, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, greeting supporters during a campaign rally in Prey Veng province yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

PREY VENG (Cambodia) • Cambodia's opposition leader yesterday said his party aims to secure a majority win in a local election next month and a general election next year, pointing to a stronger, more united opposition to challenge the rule of veteran Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mr Kem Sokha, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said in an interview that the party hopes to win 60 per cent of the votes in Sunday's commune elections, which are seen as a barometer of a general election next year.

The CNRP expects to win 70 per cent of the 123 parliamentary seats in the 2018 national election, he said.

The hotly anticipated national election could extend the more than 30-year rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) or make way for a new era of leadership by the CNRP in Cambodia - one of Asia's poorest countries.

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Sunday's local election is seen as the biggest challenge the Prime Minister's ruling party has faced in nearly four decades after his party narrowly won the last election in 2013 after losing seats to a resurgent opposition - Mr Hun Sen's worst election result since Cambodia returned to full democracy in 1998.

"The support for the CNRP has been stronger than at any other time, both in the city and in rural areas," Mr Kem Sokha told Reuters in an interview after rallies attended by thousands of supporters in Prey Veng province in the south-east.

He said the party is now more united than before despite the resignation of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who lives abroad to avoid jail on a defamation conviction. Sam Rainsy said he quit because he feared a government attempt to ban the opposition party.

Said CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, of the opposition: "They have run for five mandates and they have never won. They are just consoling themselves with their predictions."

Mr Hun Sen had on Thursday reiterated a warning that war could break out in Cambodia if his ruling party loses local elections next month and a general election next year. His party has also said that it will win 60 per cent of the vote next month.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Opposition hopes to win majority in Cambodia polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe