|PHOTO: A young Cambodian voter shows off the indelible ink that indicates she has cast her vote. (ABC News: Liam Cochrane)|
Cambodia's local elections offer positive results for both major parties
ABC Online (Australia) | 5 June 2017
Cambodians have turned out in huge numbers to vote for local officials, in an election seen as a test of the ruling party's long reign.
Unofficial early results published by Government-aligned media suggest the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) will secure around 71 per cent of communes.
That is a decrease from 2012's tally of 97 per cent of communes, but not quite the landslide that was thought possible.
The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) is also claiming the result as a victory, increasing its control of communes from 40 in 2012 to around 482 in Sunday's ballot.
"The overall situation for this year's election is much better [if you don't count the 27 prisoners of conscience, some of them connected to my alleged affair with the young hairdresser, the sustained threats and intimidation, particularly of war, the closing down of Democracy Square, the official exile of my internal nemesis, the amendment to the law on political parties, the movement of soldiers as voters, the obstacles to more than a million young migrants from registration, from voting, the obstacles for garment workers to go vote on election day, etc.] than the previous one and the support for the CNRP is is stronger [in spite of the internal coup aided and abetted by Hun Sen that gave me this position],"
party president Kem Sokha said.
A breakdown of the total ballots cast, rather than commune councillors selected, could show an even stronger result for the opposition, which said the raw numbers were neck-and-neck.
The campaign period was marred by threats, with Prime Minister Hun Sen warning of a return to civil war if his party lost, and the head of the armed forces threatening to "smash the teeth" of any opposition protesters.
But in a country where the medium age is 24, a new generation of young voters is less susceptible to these reminders of Cambodia's dark history.
"The threat of war doesn't seem to be effective," independent political commentator Meas Ny said.
PHOTO: Cambodia's Prime minister Hun Sen (centre) has been in power for 32 years. (Supplied: The Phnom Penh Post (file photo))
Positive signs for Cambodia's democracy
Polling day appeared to be free of violence and initial reports from election monitors were upbeat.
However, there were accusation of some [some?!] dirty tricks.
Local human rights group LICADHO reported truckloads of soldiers being brought in to shore up the CPP's vote in marginal seats.
Mr Meas said there was also evidence of pre-election vote buying, known locally as the "season of the barking dog" as village leaders go door-to-door in the days before the vote.
"Although substantial amounts of money have been used for the purpose of buying votes, it still does not change much the result of the election for the CPP," Mr Meas told the ABC.
While not perfect, the commune elections showed some positive signs for Cambodia's much-beleaguered democracy, with an 85 per cent turn-out and voter lists far improved on past efforts.
The results of these local polls set the scene for a showdown between the CPP and the opposition in national polls next year.
Mr Hun has ruled Cambodia for 32 years and is grooming his sons for political succession.