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Thursday 22 Feb 2018 | 16:37 | SYDNEY
Thursday 22 Feb 2018 | 16:37 | SYDNEY

No surprises in Cambodia's election



22 July 2008 14:37

Cambodia goes to the polls this coming Sunday, 27 July, in what will be the fourth general election since the country returned to something approaching normality in 1993. There is no uncertainty about the result.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will be returned to office, almost certainly with an increased majority and in a result that will sound the political death knell for FUNCINPEC, the party originally associated with former king Norodom Sihanouk but led for most of its existence by Sihanouk’s son, Norodom Ranariddh. Over the past year and a half FUNCINPEC has engaged in self-destructive behaviour marked by the ouster of Ranariddh as the result of his erratic personal life and the tendency of parliamentary party members to defect to the CPP.

As with past elections, there is little doubt there have been instances of intimidation by members of the CPP to ensure the best possible result for their party. That said, it would be wrong not to recognise that the expected success in the election also reflects the fact that the CPP has functioned as a disciplined and well-organised party that has worked hard to extend its control over the country. In this, Hun Sen has shown himself both skilful and tireless, as well as ruthless, and very much in tune with the earthy expectations of a population that still is nearly 90 per cent rural. Indeed, Hun Sen’s success over recent years has been such that he has not felt it necessary to play a major role in electioneering for the present contest.

The only issue really in doubt is the size of the CPP’s victory and whether the eponymous Sam Rainsy Party is able to muster a sufficient number of votes to justify its claim to be Cambodia’s ‘official opposition’.

The election is taking place against renewed difficulties with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple, an Angkorian period temple whose sovereignty has long been disputed by Thailand but which was confirmed as being under Cambodian jurisdiction by a decision of the International Court at the Hague in 1962. That the issue has surfaced now is more a reflection of Thai domestic politics than deep-seated difficulties between Cambodia and Thailand. Nevertheless, to the extent the issue resonates with Cambodia’s voters it will redound to the benefit of the CPP.

Meanwhile, and as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) marks its second anniversary, none the five persons indicted by the tribunal has yet been brought to trial. It is now expected that Deuch, the former director of the Tuol Sleng extermination centre, will be brought to trial before the end of the year. The tribunal still lacks funds to continue its procedures, and doubts about allegations of corruption associated with its functioning have not been fully resolved. But none of these facts are likely to have an influence on the election result.

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