Cambodia’s ruling party sweeps Senate election after crackdown

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen casts his ballot to choose Senate members at a polling station in Kandal province, Cambodia, on Feb 25, 2018.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen casts his ballot to choose Senate members at a polling station in Kandal province, Cambodia, on Feb 25, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PHNOM PENH (REUTERS, AFP) - Cambodia’s ruling party said on Sunday (Feb 25) it had won every seat up for election on the Senate in a ballot held after thousands of opposition lawmakers and local council leaders were stripped of their right to vote. 

Preliminary results published by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) showed it had won 58 seats on the 62-seat Senate, leaving the other three political parties with nothing. 

Preliminary results released by the National Election Committee late on Sunday appear to support CPP's claims, showing that the party received around 11,200 votes, which should give it enough to win the seats up for grabs.

Senate seats are elected by members of parliament and commune councillors across Cambodia. The King of Cambodia and the National Assembly appoint another two members each. 

Rights groups and members of the opposing Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said the vote was a “sham” and“undemocratic”. 

The CNRP was dissolved by a court last November at the government’s request, and the CNRP says the authorities subsequently stripped 5,062 of its commune councillors and lawmakers of their voting rights. 

“The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) calls on all friendly countries of Cambodia and the United Nations to not accept the results of the Senate election,” the CNRP said in a statement. 

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

“Today’s exercise is a pointless farce that will deceive no one,” said CNRP’s former leader Sam Rainsy on Twitter on Sunday. 

Advocacy group Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said the vote cannot be considered “a legitimate democratic exercise”, after the dissolution of CNRP and the overall climate of repression over the past year.