By SOPHENG CHEANG – Associated Press
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s National Election Commission released the official results of this month’s local elections on Sunday that confirmed a landslide victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party.
The results showed that the Cambodian People’s Party won 74.3% of the vote and the opposition Candlelight Party about 22.3%. This means that the CPP won 1,648 of the country’s 1,652 commune leader positions and the Candlelight Party the other four.
The CPP has held an iron grip on power for decades and has the enormous advantage of controlling almost all levels of government. His adversaries are less organized, have fewer resources and fear intimidation.
Hun Sen, an authoritarian leader in a nominally democratic state, has been in power for 37 years. He said he intended to stay in office until 2028 and endorsed one of his sons to succeed him.
The communal elections, organized a year before the legislative elections, are considered a test of party strength.
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The election committee said 80.19% of the country’s 9.2 million registered voters cast their ballots.
The Candlelight Party is the unofficial successor to the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which challenged the ruling party much louder in the last communal elections in 2017.
Following this vote, the party was dissolved before the 2018 general election by the Supreme Court on the barely substantiated grounds that it was involved in treasonous activities.
The court ruling forced all party members out of their local and national elected positions and kept it out of the ballot in the 2018 elections, paving the way for a clean sweep of all seats in the National Assembly by Hun Sen’s party.
Both the ruling party and the National Election Committee announced that they were suing Son Chhay, the Vice Chairman of the Candlelight Party, for comments he made during a post-election online interview alleging that polls of this month were unfair.
Son Chhay accused the election committee of being biased in favor of the ruling party and of buying votes and intimidating voters. His allegations were denied by the government and the committee.
Son Chhay, who holds both Cambodian and Australian nationality, left Cambodia before the charges were brought, his party colleagues said.
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