PHNOM PENH – Cambodia’s ruling party won all the Senate seats at stake in an election Sunday, according to the National Election Committee, further consolidating the party’s lock on power in one of Southeast Asia’s economically fastest growing but most authoritarian nations.
The preliminary results announced late Sunday by the NEC showed that the Cambodian People’s Party headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen won all 58 seats.
Four parties that fielded candidates — the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, royalist FUNCINPEC party, Cambodian Youth Party, and National Unity for Khmer Party — are mostly supporters of Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, making him the world’s longest serving head of government.
But no opposition party took part following the government-engineered dissolution of the country’s second most powerful party last November.
In the previous Senate election in 2012, two political parties won all the then 61 seats in the Senate — with 46 won by the Hun Sen-led CPP and 11 by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
But the Sam Rainsy Party boycotted this election because of the forced dissolution late last year of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, formed in 2012 through the merger of the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties to form a stronger opposition.
In this election, 58 Senate seats were determined through voting by 123 members of the National Assembly and by commune councillors. Two seats will be filled through appointments by King Norodom Sihamoni and another two by the lower house.
The Sam Rainsy Party continues to exist despite the 2012 merger, but no longer has any members of commune councils nor in parliament due to the CNRP dissolution.
In a statement issued Sunday morning, the CNRP protested the election, saying nearly half the voters did not represent the will of the Cambodian people since they were picked to fill seats in the National Assembly and on commune councils vacated through the court-ordered dissolution of the CNRP.
The CNRP also appealed to all foreign friends of Cambodia not to recognize the election results and to help restore democracy in Cambodia.
However, NEC chairman Sik Bunhok told Kyodo News that the senate election was a purely domestic and well organized in accordance with legal procedure and Cambodian law.
Senate members sit for six-year terms. The more powerful lower house holds elections every five years, with the next expected to be held this summer.