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CNRP boycott call slammed by opposition party leader

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Grassroots Democratic Party president Yang Saing Koma speaks to party members in June. Sreng Meng Srun

CNRP boycott call slammed by opposition party leader

The president of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) on Wednesday slammed the leadership of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) for handing the 125-seat National Assembly to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party with its boycott calls.

GDP leader Yang Saing Koma made his remarks at a round-table meeting in Phnom Penh, where party spokesman Sam Inn accused the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of “intimidation” and “vote-buying”, allegations the ruling party’s spokesperson Sok Eysan dismissed as a “fabrication” to hide the GDP’s “abject failure”.

Koma said: “The general picture before and after the election, and the stance of the GDP, is that the CNRP effectively handed the National Assembly’s full 125 seats to the CPP when it urged people to boycott the elections or spoil their ballot.”

He said he saw “the dynamism of his party’s supporters growing”, but over the final two days of the election season, especially on “White Day” (the last Saturday when all political activity is banned) he sensed a “push” to the CPP caused by the CNRP’s boycott call that gave the ruling party its landslide victory.

“Why did [the CNRP] do this and what was the intention behind the [boycott call]? First, [it] urged people not to vote by saying ‘Stay Home, Win Clean’, but after that, [the CNRP] urged people to vote but spoil their ballot.

“In Phnom Penh, 100,000 ballots were invalid, and this gifted three seats automatically to the CPP,” Koma said.

He said the CNRP discouraged people from voting for the GDP because it thought that if they did so, the party would win seats in the National Assembly and the international community would not condemn the Cambodian government for a lack of democracy.

“It wanted change via international pressure on the government, and to achieve that it wanted to see low voting figures. But at the end, it realised many people would vote [and so it] gave 125 seats to the CPP. Now the CPP will have 125 seats [in the National Assembly] and complete victory,” he said.

He said the CNRP leadership thought the international community would put pressure on the CPP government and it would change its mind, or else face economic sanctions, and arrange new elections, and the CNRP would be reborn!”

Meanwhile, Inn accused the CPP of using intimidation and vote-buying to help secure its historic victory “because intimidation and vote buying happen often in Cambodian society”.

But CPP spokesman Sok Eysan rejected the allegations, saying the electorate saw the CPP reforming and so more people turned to it as they lost faith in the opposition.

“The CPP was aware of its weak points and so reformed. That made people welcome it and congratulate it and give their support to CPP again. People lost faith in the opposition,” he said.

As for the allegation that the CPP used intimidation and vote buying, Eysan said such accusations were made because of the GDP’s disappointment at not winning a single seat in the elections.

“The [GDP] allegation is just a fabrication to hide the party’s abject failure,” he said.

Cheam Channy, a former CNRP lawmaker, called the GDP’s stance “unreasonable”.

“This is its opinion, but everyone can see that the CNRP was dissolved by a Supreme Court verdict last year, so the [GDP’s] allegations of the CNRP [affecting the elections] cannot be correct,” he said.

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