Cambodia election crisis deepens as opposition rejects results

PHNOM PENH Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:24am EDT

1 of 3. Kem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), gestures during a news conference at the CNRP headquarter in Phnom Penh August 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Samrang Pring

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PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A deadlock over Cambodia's disputed election hardened on Monday as the opposition rejected official results confirming a victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen's long-ruling party and raised the prospect of further street protests.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said it would not accept the latest results because the government had failed to address its allegations of widespread cheating, and called on the international community not to recognize the outcome.

The crisis over the July 28 election is Hun Sen's biggest political challenge in two decades and threatens to destabilize the small, fast-growing Southeast Asian nation that has built strong economic and political ties with China in recent years.

The National Election Committee (NEC) - a state body seen as dominated by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) - announced official results earlier on Monday showing the CPP had won a majority of votes in 19 of Cambodia's 24 provinces.

That was broadly in line with preliminary results that the CPP said gave it 68 seats in parliament to the 55 seats won by the CNRP, a hefty loss of 22 seats for the ruling party.

The NEC did not say when it would release final results for seats in parliament. The CNRP has claimed victory, saying it won 63 seats in the 123-seat parliament.

"We are disappointed and reject this result," Kem Sokha, the deputy head of CNRP, told a news conference in Phnom Penh.

"The National Election Committee is responsible for any possible uprising or protest by people who are voters and want justice."

Even by the government's own figures, the vote was Hun Sen's worst election result since Cambodia returned to full democracy in 1998 after decades of war and turmoil that included the 1975-79 "Killing Fields" rule of the Khmer Rouge.

The election revealed widespread unhappiness with his iron-fisted rule over issues such as land rights and rising inequality, despite rapid economic growth. The CNRP is trying to capitalize on that while emotion still runs high, especially among younger Cambodians eager for change.

CNRP leader Sam Rainsy, who returned from exile to galvanize the campaign of the newly merged opposition for the election, has already said he should be prime minister.

Sam Rainsy left the country again last week to attend his daughter's wedding in the United States but is expected to return this week.

Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital Phnom Penh on August 6 to demand an international inquiry into the election. Further opposition protests in reaction to the official results could push tensions higher still, but Kem Sokha said more rallies would only be held as a last resort.

On Thursday, the government deployed armored personnel carriers and soldiers in Phnom Penh as a precaution ahead of possible protests. Kem Sokha called on the government to stop further military deployments, which he said were unnecessary and risked raising tensions further.

The CNRP claims that 1.3 million names were missing from electoral rolls and that Hun Sen's side had stuffed ballot boxes with illegal votes.

The allegations are being investigated by the NEC. Sam Rainsy wants the United Nations and non-governmental bodies to take part, which the government has rejected.

The United States and European Union have expressed concern about irregularities in the election but both have said an investigation should be conducted by Cambodian authorities.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Jason Szep and Paul Tait)

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Comments (7)
LongLiveCPP wrote:
Congratulate to Hun Sen and the CPP on their victory. The people have spoken, for the past 30+ years, the people of Cambodia rejected the oppositions’ racist, radical, xenophobic views. The oppositions are a bunch of sore losers, who have lost every election. Every time they lost, they refused to accept the result, and provoked chaos and violence – it is a proven failed tactic. The CPP should do everything it can to protect the people, deploy troops and crush the troublemakers and drive them out of Cambodia once and for all. Long live CPP!

Aug 12, 2013 3:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
josh1243 wrote:
The western media is quick to report on CPP corruption (real concern), but they consistently ignore the fact that CNRP is running off a xenophobic, Nazi-like anti-Vietnamese platform. The corrupt strongman presiding over 30 years of growth seems a lot better choice than the Nazi actively inciting hatred and violence against the second largest ethnic group in the country. It is amazing to me that the media hasn’t reported any of this violence, which I can tell you as someone living in Cambodia, is very real. Unfortunately, the media views anything challenging “democracy” as against the West and bad. If democracy means riots and racist violence then I’m fine letting a corrupt CPP win.

Aug 12, 2013 10:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
downtownbobby wrote:
Its pretty much common knowledge that CPP is corrupt. I don’t think CNRP is a big step above them, but I do believe that they won, given all the support they have received in an unfair election setup by the incumbent party. BTW I haven’t really heard CNRP targeting Vietnamese in a Nazi-like fashion, but rather directly challenging Vietnam’s influence over Hun Sen’s reign. Either way, as long as its within their constitution, it’s for the majority vote to decide whether or not to accept that ideology. A democracy doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a morally right society. I know Rainsy is corrupt as well, but if the people’s voice is shunned and ignored, then there’s no progress towards a democracy. Many things that Hun Sen has said is suspicious and contradictory towards an honest victory. Doesn’t make any sense why an honest incumbent victor wouldn’t allow a thorough and open investigation. I understand the people’s frustrations.

Aug 13, 2013 3:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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