Signs of a slowdown in Phnom Penh – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — Not so long ago, the backdrop in any photo of Phnom Penh landmarks such as the Royal Palace or Independence Monument would have been a low-rise panoply of four- and five-story townhouses. But in one of Southeast Asia’s more visually transformative building booms, dozens of apartment and office blocks have gone up around the Cambodian capital, sending land prices skyward. If not quite the cornerstone of the country’s economic growth, Phnom Penh’s construction boom has at least cemented Cambodia’s already rapid expansion, which has topped 7% most years for the past two decades.

Cambodian local elections point to a tight parliamentary race – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — Preliminary results in Cambodia’s June 4 local, or commune, elections indicate a narrow win for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party. The CPP took 51% of the popular vote, giving it control of around 1,100 of the country’s 1,646 communes. But nearly half of all voters opted for the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, suggesting a close fight in next year’s parliamentary elections. The local elections were a dry run for the 2018 poll. Two days before the vote, Hun Sen led a huge CPP rally in Phnom Penh — a rare appearance from a leader previously so confident that he rarely campaigned. The CNRP emulated the CPP later the same day. Tens of thousands of both parties’ supporters rode around the capital in festive convoys of trucks and motorbikes around 5km long.

Local elections have Cambodians thinking a year ahead – RTÉ World Report

Last Sunday Cambodia’s held local elections saw a narrow win for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party led by Prime Minister Hun Sen. But while the CPP won the popular vote, the opposition saw its share of council seats increase ten-fold from the last local elections held in 2012. The campaign had all the colour and tension of a national election, which Cambodia will stage in a year’s time, with huge final rallies by the CPP and the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party on the Friday before the vote.

High turnout in Cambodian local elections as opposition poised to gain – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — As Cambodia’s 16 million people awaited official results from Sunday’s local elections, early indications suggested that Cambodian National Rescue Party, the main opposition group, had made significant gains at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s expense. As the National Election Committee read out results on local TV, the CNRP estimated that it had won 46% of the popular vote to the CPP’s 51%. Fresh News, a local outlet sympathetic toward the CPP, said that preliminary results showed the CPP winning in 1,163 communes across the country, down from 1,592 five years earlier, with the CNRP winning 482. The elections are widely seen as a test run ahead of next year’s national parliamentary polls, which will decide who forms the next government. At stake are 11,572 local council seats in Cambodia’s 1,646 communes or municipalities. The National Election Committee, an official body, was scheduled to being announcing preliminary results first at 5pm local time, then 7pm, before finally commencing the results announcement at 8:30pm. The delay was blamed on an internet outage.

Phnom Penh sees huge final campaign rallies ahead of local elections – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians braved scorching sun in the capital on Friday to cheer Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Kem Sokha on the final day of campaigning ahead of Sunday (June 4) when strongly contested commune, or sangkat elections, are being held.

Cambodia’s local elections seen as national test run – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM KROM, Cambodia — Cambodians will vote on June 4 in municipal, or commune, elections widely seen as a gauge for how the both the ruling and opposition parties will fare in national elections scheduled for next year. Twelve parties are vying for the support of nearly 8 million voters in 1,646 communes across the country. The main contest will be between Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party and the biggest opposition group, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, which ultimately hopes to end the CPP’s long run at the helm of government. Only those two main parties are contesting every seat, but smaller groups such as the royalist Funcinpec — as well as the League for Democracy, led by the outspoken Khem Veasna — have realistic hopes of winning seats. Cheang Vannak, a motorcycle mechanic, voted for the CPP in the last national elections in 2013, helping the governing party to a narrow win over the CNRP in a disputed contest. But nodding toward a CNRP party logo on a motorbike parked at the entrance to his roadside garage near Phnom Krom in western Cambodia, he indicated that this time his vote would go to the opposition.

Booming Southeast Asian vehicle sales drive urban congestion – Nikkei Asian Review/FT

JAKARTA — Vehicle sales in Southeast Asia are set to outpace all other regions of the world during 2017, according to industry research, highlighting surging economic expansion in some parts of the region. But the growing number of new cars and trucks in urban centers is likely to worsen commerce-stifling traffic jams in major cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila — adding urgency to much needed transport infrastructure upgrades throughout much of the region. BMI Research — part of Fitch Group, a financial information company — has forecast that total vehicle sales in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will grow 8.1% in 2017, a marked increase in the combined 3.1% car sales growth the previous year across the 10 ASEAN countries, and more than double the sales growth rate of 3.7% projected for Asia as a whole in 2017. “Looking at passenger cars specifically, we expect Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam to be the best performing autos markets in the ASEAN region in 2017 with forecast growth of 20.4%, 19.2% and 18.0% in passenger car sales respectively,” BMI said in a recent report on the sector, citing “solid economic growth, strong private consumption and tax reform” as drivers of the car sales spike.

Debt and corruption muddy US-Cambodia relations

SINGAPORE — In contrast to the anguish and astonishment expressed in many national capitals, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president in November. While the warm response augured well for Phnom Penh’s often troubled relations with Washington, prospects for improved bilateral ties have since faded. In January, the month of Trump’s inauguration, Cambodia pulled out of the “Angkor Sentinel” joint military exercises with the U.S. In early April Phnom Penh followed up that snub to Washington by halting a nine-year-old humanitarian program run by the U.S. military that involved building schools and maternity facilities in rural areas of Cambodia. These affronts were punctuated by testy exchanges between the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh and the Cambodian government, notably over a political parties law passed in February that will make it easier for the Cambodian courts to suspend or even dissolve opposition parties. “Any government action to ban or restrict parties under the new amendments would constitute a significant setback for Cambodia’s political development, and would seriously call into question the legitimacy of the upcoming elections,” the embassy said, referring to local elections scheduled for June and a national poll due in 2018. The law has been widely criticized in Cambodia, too. Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, described it as “an affront to the principles of liberal democracy, [which] effectively gives the ruling party a delete button which can be arbitrarily applied to their political opponents at any time.”

Asia ponders whether Trump will walk the talk – Nikkei Asian Review/FT

JAKARTA — After the most divisive election campaign in decades, tens of thousands of Americans have protested and rioted against the winner in cities across the country, prompting international concerns about an increasingly divided superpower. During his campaign, Trump called Mexicans “rapists,” appeared to mock a disabled reporter, threatened to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., and faced accusations of sexually assaulting women. Clinton was subject to an FBI investigation over her use of a private email account while working as secretary of state, while a foundation run with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was suspected of soliciting cash from foreign governments in return for contacts in the U.S. government. China crowed over the debacle. “The innumerable scandals, rumors, conspiracy theories and obscenities make it impossible for a person to look away,” said state media outlet Xinhua News Agency. Alongside its unrivalled economic and military strength, the U.S. has relied on intangible “soft power” to influence other countries. Joseph Nye, the Harvard University scholar who coined the term, calls it “the ability to get what one wants through attraction rather than coercion or payments.” But Nye noted that American prestige in Asia has been undermined. “The lack of civility in the presidential debate and the nativist, xenophobic nature of a number of Trump’s statements have already had a negative effect on American soft power in Asia and elsewhere,” he told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Asian cities set to surge up retail hub rankings – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — Asia is home to more than half the world’s most dynamic retail hubs, according to new research that reinforces images of the region’s mall-strewn megacities. The research, by professional services and investment management company JLL, says 12 of the fastest-growing retail cities are in Asia, with eight in China alone — another indication that global economic growth is increasingly driven by the Asia-Pacific region. JLL lists Dubai as the world’s fastest-growing retail destination, with Shanghai second and Beijing third. Places 9 to 13 are occupied by Bangkok, Chengdu, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Manila, respectively. Only two European cities make the top 20 — Moscow and Istanbul — with none from Africa. Mexico City is the sole city from the western hemisphere, sitting at number 19.