PHNOM PENH: Cambodia on Thursday officially started campaigning for next month’s general election, expected to be won by strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen who is seeking to extend his 28-year grip on the country.
Thousands of supporters from several political parties took to Phnom Penh’s streets in colorful rival rallies, as cars and motorcycles adorned with banners roared through the capital.
The rallies, held one month ahead of July 28 polls, mark the official start of election season in the kingdom.
While all political parties are free to canvass voters and hold public events, observers say there is little chance of unseating the incumbent Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which won the last two polls by a landslide despite allegations of fraud and election irregularities.
Hun Sen and other CPP leaders marked the start of campaigning by receiving a blessing from the country’s top Buddhist monks in front of tens of thousands of supporters.
“Making a right decision will bring more success, but a wrong decision will be a setback and a huge danger for the nation,” Heng Samrin, CPP honorary president, told the rally.
A CPP victory will prevent the return of a genocidal regime similar to the Khmer Rouge of the late 1970s, he added, alluding to allegations by his party that the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) would lurch the nation towards conflict.