PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s National Election Committee on Sunday issued official results from this month’s local polls that confirmed a landslide victory by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party.
The results showed the Cambodian People's Party receiving 74.3% of the votes, and the opposition Candlelight Party about 22.3%. It meant that the CPP won 1,648 of the country’s 1,652 commune chief positions, and the Candlelight Party the remaining four.
The CPP has held an iron grip on power for decades, and has the huge advantage of controlling almost every level of government. Its opponents are less organized, with fewer resources and fearful of intimidation.
Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler in a nominally democratic state, has held power for 37 years. He has said he intends to stay in office until 2028, and has endorsed one of his sons to succeed him.
The commune elections, held a year ahead of the general election, are regarded as a test of parties’ strength.
The election committee said 80.19% of the country’s 9.2 million registered voters had cast ballots.
The Candlelight Party is the unofficial successor to the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which made a much stronger second-place challenge to the ruling party in the last commune elections in 2017.
In the aftermath of that vote, the party was dissolved ahead of the 2018 general election by the Supreme Court on the thinly supported grounds that it was involved in treasonous activity.
The court ruling forced all party members from their local and national elected positions, and kept it off the ballot in the 2018 election, paving the way for a clean sweep of all the seats in the National Assembly by Hun Sen’s party.
The ruling party and the National Election Committee have both announced they are suing Son Chhay, the vice president of the Candlelight Party, for comments he made in a post-election online interview alleging that this month's polls were unfair.
Son Chhay charged that the election committee was biased in favor of the governing party and that there had been vote-buying and intimidation of voters. His allegations were denied by the government and the committee.
Son Chhay, who holds joint Cambodian and Australian nationality, left Cambodia before the lawsuits were filed, his party colleagues said.