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.
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 — It was late evening around the Boeung Trabek area of Cambodia’s capital, and the Vietnamese-run cafés and carpentry shops on these dimly lit sidestreets were locking up for the night. One restaurant owner, who would not give his name, told The Edge Review that “politics is messy for us in this country,” explaining his reluctance to discuss in more detail the anti-Vietnamese speeches given by opposition leader Sam Rainsy since his return to Cambodia on July 19. Another shop-owner, speaking Khmer but with what a translator described as a Vietnamese accent, said she is a Cambodian from Kampong Cham, about a three-hour drive from Phnom Penh. She said that she neither comes from Vietnam nor has any Vietnamese ancestry – her apparent reluctance to divulge her background perhaps another signal of the fears held by Vietnamese migrants and Cambodians of Vietnamese descent in Cambodia’s fractious post-election period.