Cambodian ruling party wins all seats in polls

Prime Minister Hun Sen surrounded by commune councillors at a polling station in Cambodia's Kandal province yesterday. The election for the 62-seat Senate arouses little public interest because the Upper House is seen as a rubber-stamp body and candi
Prime Minister Hun Sen surrounded by commune councillors at a polling station in Cambodia's Kandal province yesterday. The election for the 62-seat Senate arouses little public interest because the Upper House is seen as a rubber-stamp body and candidates are elected by other officials rather than the public.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PHNOM PENH • Cambodia's ruling party said yesterday it had won every Senate seat up for election in a ballot held after thousands of opposition lawmakers and local council leaders were stripped of their right to vote.

Preliminary results published by the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) show it had won 58 seats on the 62-seat Senate, leaving the other three political parties with nothing. Official results are not yet available, but two officials on the National Election Committee confirmed the results published by the CPP, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Legislative members and commune councillors across Cambodia elect 58 of the Senate seats. 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) slammed the vote as a "sham" and"undemocratic".

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

The CNRP "calls on all friendly countries of Cambodia and the United Nations to not accept the results of the Senate election", the opposition party 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 American help, an accusation both the United States 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 yesterday.

Advocacy group Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights 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.

Though the Senate vote arouses little public interest because the Upper House is seen as a rubber-stamp body and candidates are elected by other officials rather than the public, the result is a clear prelude to the national polls set for July.

A total of four groups, including the royalist Funcinpec, contested the Senate polls. It is the first time that the Senate election is being held without a main opposition party taking part.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Cambodian ruling party wins all seats in polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe