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‘Clean Fingers’ call backfires

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Exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has a picture on his Facebook page showing him with egg on his face. Pha Lina

‘Clean Fingers’ call backfires

WITH some 82.17% of votes cast, it is obvious that Sam Rainsy’s call to boycott the national elections has failed.

Compare this with the 2013 elections in which his now outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) took part in. Voter turnout then was a mere 69.61%.

Had Rainsy not called for a boycott, and instead thrown his weight behind the opposition, it could very well have made a good showing at the polls.

Anyone with political sense and a basic understanding of strategy would know that you need a high voter turnout to ensure that any attempt to steal an election will fail.

Grassroots Democratic Party leader Yang Saing Koma’s desperate call to Rainsy to immediately stop his actions and urge voters to go out to vote lends support to the fact that the latter’s boycott plan was not popular even among some members of the opposition.

Rainsy’s call on the people to stay at home was bereft of any strategy. It was devoid of common sense if one wanted to change the government. Malaysia is proof of this.

Very briefly, on May 9 this year, that country changed its government in a not so shocking defeat of the National Front coalition which ruled for 60 years since independence in 1957.

The opposition there tried numerous times from the birth of its “reformasi” or reformation movement which began in September 1998 with the sacking and jailing of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

In the following election years – 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2013 – the opposition continued to fail in its attempt to change the government. And to think it even won the popular vote in 2013 as well.

Despite failing each time, it generally got more votes except in 2004. It also had the support of Bersih (Clean), an NGO that was formed to further the cause of sociopolitical reforms.

Bersih went all out to register voters and educate them on the importance of casting their ballot.

So how did the Pakatan Harapan coalition win the election this year? Simple. Malaysians went out in full force to vote and they flew home from every corner of the world just to do so.

Voter turnout was 82.3% – so huge that no extent of fraud could have turned the tide against a win for the opposition.

But Rainsy, Mu Sochua and their allies did the exact opposite. It is bewildering how they could think that calling on the people to stay home would translate to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) faring poorly at the hustings?

When opposition supporters stay home and boycott the vote, the CPP’s supporters will just overwhelm them at the polls, thus ensuring a win for party president and soon-to-be prime minister-designate Hun Sen.

In short, Rainsy’s Clean Fingers campaign just cleaned him out. Of course, he will continue to live in France and condemn the Cambodian elections as faulty, illegitimate, and so on. But who is to blame for this? Not Rainsy?

What does the future now hold for him, especially since the high voter turnout has proven that Rainsy does not have the kind of support he has been claiming?

Will certain Western powers which have been hurling scorn at the CPP and the Hun Sen-led government now ditch him? It’s an unlikely proposition in the short-term but not so in the foreseeable future.

Why? With each condemnation by the West, Cambodia moves closer to China, thus upsetting the geopolitical balance in the region and strengthening Chinese influence.

Certainly, the CPP and Hun Sen have much to answer for. They are not perfect by any means and are known to take a high handed approach to critics.

The temporary downing of legitimate and independent news portals, including that of The Post, on the excuse that there is too much fake news being spread in the run-up to the polls, is the latest proof of this.

The government could have easily used the recently enacted fake news laws to address its concerns. But it didn’t.

The media and foreign entities may call the Cambodian elections and Hun Sen’s ultimate win “illegitimate” due to the absence of the outlawed CNRP.

But the fact still remains that, with the high voter turnout, no amount of excuses can apologise for a boycott call that effectively ended in a legitimate CPP walk over.

Analysis by Joshua Purushotman

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