Hun Sen: Cambodia election result confirms expected win for PM
Cambodia’s outgoing leader, Hun Sen, celebrated his 71st birthday by receiving official confirmation of his party’s overwhelming victory in last month’s election. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secured an impressive 120 out of 125 seats, despite critics denouncing the July poll as a sham due to the ban on the main opposition, the Candlelight Party.
With the path cleared for his succession plan, Hun Sen is set to appoint his son, Hun Manet, as his successor in the coming days. Hun Manet, who was formerly the commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, has been groomed for the role for some time.
Now that Hun Manet has been elected as an MP, all procedural barriers have been eliminated, paving the way for his appointment as prime minister. Hun Sen has justified the succession plan as a means to maintain peace and avoid any potential turmoil in the event of his death in office.
Following his appointment as prime minister, Hun Manet is expected to assume the role of Senate president early next year and serve as acting head of state when King Norodom Sihamoni is abroad. During his four-decade rule since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen’s leadership has increasingly been perceived as authoritarian.
He has consolidated power through control of the military, police, and moneyed interests. Observers say he has dispatched opponents through co-opting, jailing or exiling them.
Indeed, there was little doubt over the result of last month’s poll, with some critics branding it more like a coronation than an election.
The Candlelight Party, Cambodia’s main opposition and the sole credible challenger to Hun Sen was disqualified from contesting the election in May after officials accused the party of filing incorrect paperwork.
Apart from the CPP, the royalist Funcinpec Party took five seats, while the remaining 16 opposition parties all failed to gain any representation.
The CPP took 6,398,311 votes from a total of 8.2 million ballots cast or 78% of the popular vote. Before the poll, the government criminalized any attempt to boycott the election or spoil the ballot papers.
The US, EU, and other Western nations refused to send observers to the poll, saying it was neither free nor fair.
EU officials said the vote was “conducted in a restricted political and civic space where the opposition, civil society, and the media were unable to function effectively without hindrance”.
Hun Manet celebrated Saturday’s result by posting a photo to Instagram showing his young son presenting Hun Sen with a bouquet of blue and yellow flowers, captioned with the message: “Happy birthday to respected and beloved father”.