Cambodian opposition makes significant gains in general election

Win for Hun Sen, in power for 28 years, rejected by opposition which claims voting ‘irregularities’

Kate Hodal

Cambodia’s opposition has made what appear to be significant gains in a general election that could prove to be the ruling party’s worst show in more than a decade, according to preliminary results.

The incumbent Cambodian People's party, presided over by prime minister Hun Sen, won 68 of the 123 National assembly seats in Sunday's polls, according to provisional figures from the national election commission. The opposition's Cambodia National Rescue party won 55, up from 29 in the outgoing parliament.

Hun Sen - who has been in power for 28 years - will therefore serve another term as prime minister, a win rejected by opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, who has claimed that "serious election irregularities" should be reviewed by an independent body.

The significant gains are a considerable boost for the opposition, already buoyed by the return of Rainsy last week after a royal pardon meant he came back to Cambodia from self-imposed exile.

Rainsy was barred from participating in the elections, as the national election commission deemed his return too late to be included in the polls.

While this election was in many ways unprecedented - with a significant number of young voters using social media to share information and rally for change - many expected the CPP to win by another landslide, as happened in the last two elections, despite widespread allegations of fraud.

The opposition has said it wants an independent investigation of all voting irregularities in Sunday (28JUL)’s poll, which are said to range from alleged problems with indelible ink to claims that about 1 million voters were written off voting lists.

Transparency International said that at 60% of polling stations, citizens with proper ID could not find their names on the voter lists.

In an interview with the Guardian last week, Rainsy warned that an election deemed “not free and fair” by the Cambodian public could lead to violence, including protests during which “anything is possible”.

It is unclear what Rainsy’s - or his party’s - next moves will be, but if there is an opposition boycott to the results, the ruling CPP will not be able to form a new government. – (Guardian service)