Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on Monday said it had won all 125 parliamentary seats up for grabs in a general election a day earlier that critics said was neither free nor fair.
Cambodia woke to another chapter of rule by strongman Hun Sen a day after an election that was heavily criticised by rights groups, the U.S. and other Western countries.
“The CPP won 77.5 per cent of the votes and won all the parliamentary seats, the other parties won no seats,’’ CPP spokesman, Sok Eysan told newsmen.
The White House said it would consider steps, including an expansion of visa restrictions placed on some Cambodian government members, in response to “flawed elections” in which there was no significant challenger to Hun Sen.
Critics say the election was a backward step for democracy in Cambodia following the dissolution last year of the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the jailing of its leader, Kem Sokha, on treason charges.
Former CNRP President, Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile, said the election was a “hollow” victory for Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, who has ruled Cambodia for almost 33 years.
The U.S. has imposed visa curbs on some Cambodian government members over a crackdown on critics and levied sanctions in June on a high-ranking official close to Hun Sen.
The European Union has threatened Cambodia with economic sanctions.
White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement on Sunday’s vote “failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people”.
“The flawed elections, which excluded the country’s principal opposition party, represent the most significant setback yet to the democratic system enshrined in Cambodia’s constitution.
“The election campaign was marred by threats from national and local leaders.
“The United States will consider additional steps to respond to the elections and other recent setbacks to democracy and human rights in Cambodia, including a significant expansion of the visa restrictions, announced on Dec. 6, 2017,’’ Sanders said.
The government spokesman, Phay Siphan, said the White House statement was an attempt to intimidate Cambodia.
“This is against the Cambodians, who went to vote to decide their own fate,’’ Siphan told newsmen.
Even as the West criticised the process, Hun Sen still has one important ally, China, which offered warm congratulations for a smooth election.
China has poured billions of dollars in development assistance and loans into Cambodia through bilateral frameworks and its Belt and Road initiative to build a new Silk Road.
“I believe that the Cambodian parliament election is an internal matter for Cambodia.
“We hope that the international community can provide constructive help for Cambodia to remain stable and achieve development,’’ Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said at the news briefing in Beijing.