More than 7 million people voted on June 4 with results only being announced at the weekend in a test of how strong veteran Prime Minister Hun Sen’s grip on power remains after 32 years in power.
The elections for 11,572 seats in 1,646 commune councils saw Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) win 1,156 of the commune chief positions and 6,503 seats overall.
Hun Sen, 64, faces a general election next year and has threatened a “civil war” if he is loses.
A former Khmer Rouge cadre, Hun Sen fled Cambodia in 1977 and returned with the Vietnamese military during that country’s war against the savage regime in 1979. He was first appointed foreign minister and was named prime minister in the Vietnamese-supported government in 1985.
The National Election Committee said Hun Sen’s party won 1,156 out of the Cambodia’s 1,646 communes.
But the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won 489 communes, compared to the 40 it secured five years ago. A third party, Khmer National Unity Party, won a single seat.
The CPP received 51 per cent of votes while the CNRP got 44 per cent, up from 40 per cent in 2012. The CNRP is particularly popular with young voters who are tired of years of corruption and one-party rule.
The CPP, reacting to allegations of intimidation from an opposition that faced legal challenges, said the polls were free and fair manner and that the results reflected the correct leadership of the party.
CNRP leader Kem Sokha told supporters the opposition would win next year.
“We have moved each step to this point, but we will move forward for happiness and progress,” Kem Sokha told the crowd, adding that “there will be no war”.
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, told the media that, based on the municipal polls, he expected the party to win a remarkably precise 71 of the 123 National Assembly seats in 2018.
Hun Sen increasingly warns of violence if the CPP loses power. Last Wednesday he told opponents to “prepare coffins” and said he would “eliminate 100 or 200 people” if it secured stability.
The prime minister is accused of using the courts to pursue CNRP leaders and human-rights activists.
Amnesty International estimated that 27 political prisoners had been incarcerated since 2013, while there are numerous ongoing prosecutions taking place.
Hun Sen and his inner circle are accused of huge self-enrichment, corruption and autocracy.
Poverty remains Cambodia’s biggest challenge. Picture credit: Flickr