After winning all 125 seats in the National Assembly, senior officers of the Cambodian People’s Party on Thursday defended their victory by taking to international and local media to call out countries that condemned the election. They also criticised members of a former opposition party.
The National Election Committee (NEC) on Wednesday announced the official results of the July 29 poll, which didn’t stray far from preliminary figures that were given earlier this month. The numbers confirmed that the CPP now controls all 125 seats in parliament.
Many western nations have been vocal in their condemnation of the elections, specifically citing the absence of the court dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in the hustings and the jailing of its president Kem Sokha.
In a press conference on Thursday at the capital’s Sofitel Hotel, three CPP senior officers strongly defended the legitimacy of the party’s victory.
A three-page document released alongside the conference called the election a “great historic achievement” for the nation. The officials stressed that it reflected the will of Cambodians.
The document read: “The election results have thwarted perfidious attempts of illegal opposition groups and ill-willed circles abroad to twist the truth and destabilise the democratic process in Cambodia.”
Adding to this, an official said: “The Cambodian People’s Party expresses regret that certain foreign circles did not take part in the elections, but took politically-motivated actions against a just and democratic procedure in Cambodia and evaluated the elections to be not free.”
When asked about the fate of the National Assembly now that it was controlled by a single party, CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said: “Don’t say the single-party National Assembly. During the 5th mandate, we saw a multi-party National Assembly, but what happened?
“It was a multi-party National Assembly, but it was not a multi-party working culture. At that time, 55 lawmakers from the opposition party were just waiting to be paid their salaries, but they always boycotted [the National Assembly].
“The culture of the 5th National Assembly was already the culture of a single-party National Assembly,” he stressed.
Suos Yara, a newly elected CPP lawmaker, said that despite being a single-party parliament, lawmakers plan to include minor parties in the decision-making process. He alluded to the “Consultation Forum” that was announced this week by Prime Minister-designate Hun Sen.
“The National Assembly takes the path decided by the will of the people. However, the newly created government led by [Prime Minister Hun Sen] might be formed by more than one party. We welcome human resources from other parties. That’s after the new National Assembly is established,” Yara said.
On Wednesday, Hun Sen said that the forum would serve to build a “culture of dialogue”. He offered to have opposition party presidents join the government as advisers.
Yara said the CPP was upholding a policy of centrist democracy, which is different from socialism. He pointed to the election process, free-market economy and freedom of expression as evidence of this.
During the press conference, the CPP officials didn’t seem worried about international pressure. Asked about the possibility of Kem Sokha’s release, they said it was in the hands of the courts.
However, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said the Kingdom is walking back toward the era before 1991 when it was similarly led by a single party.
“The election showed that everything is becoming one party. The Senate, National Assembly, and the government will fall under one party. Like it or not, one party becoming the government is like the communist era. The communist era is under one party, so it will become like that,” he claimed.
Responding to Eysan on the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) boycotts during the last mandate, Chanrath claimed it was a form of protest.
“Actually, it is part of the democratic process . . . we express our dissatisfaction by [choosing to] participate in the [National Assembly] or not. Boycotting is part of the principle in a democratic country. It’s just the way it is,” he said.
Naresuan University lecturer and special adviser for international affairs Paul Chambers told The Post on Thursday that the CPP press conference was an insult to any Cambodian who has worked for democracy and freedom.
“The so-called election of July 2018, which gave the CPP 100 per cent of the 125 National Assembly, would not have been possible without the government’s manipulation of the electoral system and . . . the judiciary to dissolve Cambodia’s only large opposition party.
“The CPP certainly defames critics of the election because the CPP is grasping for power at the expense of Cambodia’s democratic welfare,” he claimed.
Former CNRP vice-president Mu Sochua similarly voiced her opinions of disapproval over the CPP’s actions surrounding the election.
“Article 1 of the Constitution has been violated with the sham election. The National Assembly is no longer the supreme national institution that represents the people of Cambodia as half of the country’s voters were denied the choice to vote for their party of choice.
While Western nations have criticised the national elections, Russia, India, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore are among the nations that have congratulated Hun Sen on his polls victory.
Among the leaders to have done so recently, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated the CPP and said the win is a testament to Hun Sen’s leadership and commitment to securing prosperity and progress for Cambodians.
“Singapore and Cambodia enjoy good and longstanding ties. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen our multi-faceted bilateral cooperation and to promote a resilient and innovative Asean.
“I look forward to welcoming you to the 33rd Asean Summit and related summits in November,” Lee said.