Cambodians will head to the polls today to vote for the country’s next parliament and prime minister.
After the main opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), made a strong showing in the 2013 election—taking 41 of the 125 seats in Cambodia’s National Assembly—incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen has acted to ensure there is no such scare this time around. Indeed, the prime minister of 33 years has stifled criticism by cracking down on the media and dissolving the CNRP last year.
As such, despite the participation of some 20 parties, today’s election is a one-horse race that will be won by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). But Hun Sen will be nervous about turnout; a low number of voters will harm the CPP’s claim to legitimacy.
Hun Sen and Phnom Penh could suffer considerably if today’s election is deemed illegitimate, particularly internationally. Indeed, the US is already considering sanctions on Hun Sen’s regime for undermining democracy, while the EU—which accounts for some 40% of Cambodia’s exports—requires that developing countries benefiting from a free trade scheme respect human rights. As today’s election will not be free or fair, expect pressure to be applied to Cambodia.
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Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.