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Hun Sen Set For Re-election In Largely Unopposed Cambodian Poll

Ruling People's Party expected to sweep vote as banned main opposition party calls for boycott of 'sham' poll


LAHORE MIRROR (Monitoring Desk)– Cambodians are going to elect their new prime minister by voting today (Sunday) in country polls sans a viable opposition, which is said to be a forced absence, to challenge long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose party looks certain to win the poll comfortably.

Hun Sen, who has led Cambodia for 33 years and says he wants to hold office for at least another 10, campaigned on promises of continued economic development, peace and stability.

But critics have condemned the vote as illegitimate and called for a boycott following the dissolution of the largest opposition political force – the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – and a government crackdown against dissent.

The ballot includes 19 small, lesser-known parties that observers say do not present a meaningful challenge to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), led by Hun Sen.

However, officials say the number of parties in the race shows Cambodia has a multiparty democracy.

Warning over boycott

In protest against being banned from Sunday’s poll, senior CNRP leaders – many of whom fled the country last year amid a wider government crackdown on the opposition, independent media and civil society – have urged voters to stay away.

Voting is not compulsory but that did not stop Hun Sen threatening anyone who does not take part.

“Whoever doesn’t participate in this election destroys democracy, following the illegal propaganda movement,” he said at a recent election rally, referring to CNRP which was dissolved for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government with foreign help.

Officials have also said people advocating against voting could be prosecuted for obstructing voters or creating confusion about the election, which is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.

But rights groups and proponents of the boycott have said the campaign constitutes free speech.

Election observers

A number of countries, including Russia, China and Indonesia have sent observers, to watch polling but Japan, a long-time supporter of the Cambodian government, has refused to do so.

The United States and the European Union, meanwhile, withdrew funding for the election.