The Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) has claimed to have achieved a “landslide” victory in the 2023 general election, based on exit polls just hours after the polls had closed on Sunday July 23rd.
The statement came from Sok Eysan, spokesperson for the CPP who announced “We’ve won a landslide victory but so far there is no clear figures yet [regarding seats],”
A controversial election?
Much like the last election in 2018 this one has been mired in controversy after the main opposition, the Candlelight Party was barred from competing in the election due to irregularities during its registration.
To read about the Candlelight Party click here.
The claim of the landslide victory comes after current Prime-Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for 36 years stated that voter turnout had hit 84 percent of those eligible.
He further stated that the high turnout was proof that the country had rejected the extremism of the largely US based Candlelight Party.
It is estimated that almost 10 million of the Kingdom’s 16 million citizens registered to vote, meaning theoretically at least that a landslide is somewhat of an endorsement for the current government.
The vote though has drawn condemnation from a number of the mainstream media networks as being the “most unfair in years”, despite the fact election observers have been present, as well as international media being allowed to report on it.
One of the main agencies criticizing the election has been the state owned Al Jazeera of Qatar – Quite ironic since Qatar is for all intents and absolute monarchy (see note I).
Spoiled Ballots in the Cambodian Election
Prior to the election the so called “spoiling of ballots” was outlawed, yet while this has also received some criticism, voting in Cambodia is not compulsory, unlike nations such as Australia – meaning not voting, or voting for an opposition party can also be done.
Yet while some ballots were indeed spoiled, the actual numbers are expected to negligible. The National Election Committee (NEC) reported earlier on Sunday that just two people were arrested for the offense.
One of those arrested had reportedly put an X on their ballot, while the other had “stuffed” the ballot into their pocket. Both were found after posting on social media.
Following this foreign baed opposition figure Mu Sochua called for international sanctions against his own country.
How many parties took part in the 2023 Election
In total eighteen parties took part in the election, including both the CPP and former co ruling party FUNCINPEC. The Candlelight Party of Sam Rainsy, which achieved poor results in the 2022 local elections was banned from taking part in May of this year.
You can read about Cambodian Political parties here.
The CPP though are the undoubted juggernaut of the elections, with the party not only ushering in an unprecedented era of peace following the win-win policy, but also seen economic growth that has seen the country record average growth rates of 7.7 percent. This has not only dragged millions from poverty, but is also leading the Kingdom towards its goal of being middle-income by 2030.
You can read about the win-win policy here.
Cambodian Election fever
Overall attitudes throughout the election have been described as positive, with some of those questioned stating they wished for more competition, while others stated their feeling that the election showed the newfound “stability of the Kingdom”,
There has also been somewhat of a party vibe, with parties putting on concerts, holding rallies, as well as processions throughout the streets of the country.
Among the expat community, who cannot vote, most seemed happy enough to let it go on around them, although the term “I wonder who will win” was also amusingly trending in the bars of the capital.
As per previous elections there was a nationwide alcohol ban, which much like during Covid allowed bars to dust down their coffee cup collection for a few days.
To read about previous alcohol bans click here.
Cambodian Peoples Party – A Dynastic Succession
The other hot issue has been that of Hun Manet, the current head of the armed forces and son of Prime-Minister Hun Sen. He is currently not only standing for a seat in the assembly, but is also being primed as the successor to his father.
Much like anything opinions on this are mixed, but many feel that with him being just 45 years old his relative youth could see a “new start” and further improvements to the lives of Cambodians. .
The handover, which is expected to occur within this parliament would though likely see PM Hun Sen still wielding some power behind the scenes.
Yet while many in the exiled foreign opposition have compared such a succession to North Korea, proponents of it have instead suggested that Singapore, the most prosperous nation within ASEAN is more akin to what Cambodia is aiming for.
Regardless of how many seats are won by the CPP the election itself can already be seen as a success, with this, as well as the recent hosting of the SEA Games showing just how far the country has come from the bitter days of the Khmer Rouge rule.
Note I – While Qatar calls itself a constitutional monarchy in actuality it has a 45 member consultative assembly, which consists of 30 elected members, as well as 15 appointed by the hereditary Emir and ruler of the country. The assembly has the right to “question” the decisions of the Emir only if there is a two thirds majority, something extremely unlikely with 15 of the members being royal appointments.