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Election officials check the identification card of a voter at a ballot station in Phnom Penh during the elections in 2013. Sreng Meng Srun

Hun Sen thinks we can win: Sokha

Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy leader Kem Sokha on Saturday drew a positive message from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent warnings that an opposition election victory could lead to civil war, trumpeting it as acceptance from the premier that he could be defeated.

“Listen to the political message of our competitor recently, he [Hun Sen] said ‘If the National Rescue Party wins’,” Sokha said to hundreds of supporters during a speech in Preah Sihanouk province.

“Now even our competitor recognises that the [CNRP] could win the upcoming [2018] election, so we must prepare ourselves properly in order to win,” he said.

Among the preparations Sokha said were necessary were enlisting qualified candidates and election observers, and guaranteeing that all CNRP supporters receive the ID cards they will need to cast their votes.

Among a host of alleged irregularities during the 2013 election, which led to a year-long political deadlock as the CNRP contested the Cambodian People’s Party’s declared victory, was the fact many opposition supporters were unable to obtain ID cards ahead of the ballot.

“If they [voters] believe in us, but do not have the identification cards to register, we will lose support. So we must make sure those [people are] able to register and able to vote,” Sokha said.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday dismissed Sokha’s interpretation of Hun Sen’s warning, instead echoing the prime minister’s suggestion that the CNRP could not live up to promises to put more opposition supporters in leading civil service positions without unsettling those currently in charge of running key government bodies.

“[The CPP] has never predicted the National Rescue Party would win the election or [the CPP] would lose the election. [The CPP] just said that if [the CNRP] wins election there could be war because [the CNRP] leaders do their business by offering promises that cheat citizens who are voters,” Eysan said.

As part of his original warning, made during a speech last week, the prime minister suggested National Police chief Neth Savoeun and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, who are both members of the CPP’s standing committee, would lead the security services they command in rebellion should the CNRP win and attempt to replace them.

Eysan also suggested that any extra votes the CNRP receive by pushing for their supporters to receive ID cards would be nothing more than a “consolation” and “not effective” in their drive to win the election.

Sin Tith Syha, a representative of election monitoring NGO Comfrel, yesterday said the inability to acquire ID cards had disproportionately affected opposition supporters during the 2013 election, but warned that currently both sets of supporters were affected by the government’s failure to issue new cards.

“The Ministry of Interior has not yet issued identification cards to enough people. The identification card problem is [now] a joint concern.”

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