Cambodia’s communal polls testing the waters for 2018 election

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Cambodians in around 1,600 municipalities across the country are going to the polls on June 4 in what is seen as the biggest test so far for the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) under long-term Prime Minister Huns Sen ahead of the July 2018 general elections.

Many observers expect that voters will voice another sign of dissatisfaction with the strongman’s course in the fragile democracy after he and the CPP nearly lost the last election in 2013.

The election day has been preceded by rallies of hundreds of thousands of supporters of both Cambodia’s ruling party and the opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Phnom Penh. CPP supporters and Hun Sen argue that the party’s policies have brought peace and economic progress to the country, while also noting that the party toppled Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime 38 years ago – albeit with the massive support of VIetnamese troops.

Since Hun Sen came to power, Cambodia clocked annual growth rates of above seven per cent, although mostly to the favour of business tycoons and the Prime Minister’s cronies, while wealth remains very unevenly distributed and poverty is still rampant. Cambodia has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world and remains an underdeveloped country in terms of infrastructure, education and healthcare.

Opposition party supporters accuse Hun Sen of clinging to power of an increasingly authoritarian regime that is still largely structured top-down and crushing dissent where he cans, saying the opposition movement has been hit hard by Hun Sen’s crackdown and Cambodia’s young are frustrated over graft and the suppression of free expression.

At a CNRP rally on June 2, party member Yim Sovann told supporters not to be afraid and promised a landslide win in 2018.

“We all need to be united as one and win,” CNRP lawmaker Yim Sovann added, promising that the opposition would do “three times as much” for Cambodia as Hun Sen’s party, which he accused of funneling money from public businesses into private pockets and supporting landgrabbing by foreign and domestic investors.

At least it can be said that Hun Sen, with his 32-year-long premiership Asia’s longest-ruling leader, has become nervous his rule might indeed be questioned. For this case, he warned that Cambodia could descend into civil war.

“Words can cause war if the CPP loses patience and goes to your homes and burns them down,” Hun Sen, who came to power with the Khmer Rouge and was a Khmer Rouge commander in the 1970s, said in a quite menacing rhetoric.

“The only solution is that the CPP must win elections at all stages.” he added.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodians in around 1,600 municipalities across the country are going to the polls on June 4 in what is seen as the biggest test so far for the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) under long-term Prime Minister Huns Sen ahead of the July 2018 general elections.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodians in around 1,600 municipalities across the country are going to the polls on June 4 in what is seen as the biggest test so far for the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) under long-term Prime Minister Huns Sen ahead of the July 2018 general elections.

Many observers expect that voters will voice another sign of dissatisfaction with the strongman’s course in the fragile democracy after he and the CPP nearly lost the last election in 2013.

The election day has been preceded by rallies of hundreds of thousands of supporters of both Cambodia’s ruling party and the opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Phnom Penh. CPP supporters and Hun Sen argue that the party’s policies have brought peace and economic progress to the country, while also noting that the party toppled Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime 38 years ago – albeit with the massive support of VIetnamese troops.

Since Hun Sen came to power, Cambodia clocked annual growth rates of above seven per cent, although mostly to the favour of business tycoons and the Prime Minister’s cronies, while wealth remains very unevenly distributed and poverty is still rampant. Cambodia has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world and remains an underdeveloped country in terms of infrastructure, education and healthcare.

Opposition party supporters accuse Hun Sen of clinging to power of an increasingly authoritarian regime that is still largely structured top-down and crushing dissent where he cans, saying the opposition movement has been hit hard by Hun Sen’s crackdown and Cambodia’s young are frustrated over graft and the suppression of free expression.

At a CNRP rally on June 2, party member Yim Sovann told supporters not to be afraid and promised a landslide win in 2018.

“We all need to be united as one and win,” CNRP lawmaker Yim Sovann added, promising that the opposition would do “three times as much” for Cambodia as Hun Sen’s party, which he accused of funneling money from public businesses into private pockets and supporting landgrabbing by foreign and domestic investors.

At least it can be said that Hun Sen, with his 32-year-long premiership Asia’s longest-ruling leader, has become nervous his rule might indeed be questioned. For this case, he warned that Cambodia could descend into civil war.

“Words can cause war if the CPP loses patience and goes to your homes and burns them down,” Hun Sen, who came to power with the Khmer Rouge and was a Khmer Rouge commander in the 1970s, said in a quite menacing rhetoric.

“The only solution is that the CPP must win elections at all stages.” he added.

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