EU pulls support for Cambodia poll after opposition dissolved


PHNOM PENH: The European Union on Tuesday pulled support for Cambodia’s election authority, questioning the legitimacy of upcoming polls after the dissolution of the opposition transformed the kingdom into a virtual one-party state under strongman Hun Sen.

A Supreme Court ruling last month dissolved the main opposition to the incumbent Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), an act the EU described in a statement as arbitrary and which “cannot be seen as legitimate.”

The EU decried a “series of actions” against the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which won almost 45 percent of the vote in the 2013 national elections and nearly the same proportion in this year’s local polls.

Its electoral success posed a threat to the 32-year rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who wants to hold elections mid next year despite outcry over his assault on Cambodia’s fragile democracy.

But the decision to dissolve the CNRP and the subsequent reallocation of its national and local seats to other parties “denies the choice of those who voted for the party in the elections in 2013 and 2017.”

In recent months, Cambodia’s government has launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent and other perceived challenges to the regime, arresting CNRP leader Kem Sokha and sending dozens of lawmakers fleeing into exile to avoid a similar fate.

Analysts say US President Donald Trump’s hands-off approach to human rights issues paired with support from regional behemoth China have emboldened Hun Sen to throw off any pretence to democracy and turn Cambodia into a one-party state.

But while Hun Sen has praised Trump, the new administration has also taken steps to censure Cambodia for its recent actions, putting visa restrictions on senior officials this month and withdrawing its own support for the country’s election authority in November. AFP



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