Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has claimed an overwhelming victory after Sunday's election, which was reportedly contested by some 20 political parties. However, official results are not expected to be released until August.
Preliminary results indicate that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) party will maintain its presence in power following success with 75% of votes across the country, according to national broadcaster TVK.
“By the result of each polling station, we can say that the CPP is the winner,” National Election Committee spokesman Hang Puthea said. “Those who do not go to vote, and who are incited by the national traitors, are the ones who destroy democracy,” Hun Sen had said in a final pre-election speech Friday.
While, CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan added that he was “very optimistic” that the party had won “gloriously, extraordinarily.” Eysan explained that “the voice of more than 80% of the voters are [for the] CPP.”
The party released a statement which said: “the high voter turnout clearly illustrates the enthusiasm and political rights of the Cambodian people in strengthening a multi-party democracy.”
Contrastingly, there were reports of Cambodians disputing and protesting the results of the election.
“In this new chapter of Cambodia's history,” Astrid Noren-Nilsson, a lecturer on Southeast Asian affairs at Sweden’s Lund University, said, “freedom of expression looks likely to be severely curtailed, citizens will be encouraged to engage in business over politics, and friendship with China and Russia will be accompanied by anti-Western sentiment.”
Director general of information and broadcasting at the Information Ministry, Phos Sovann, confirmed that a total of 17 websites - including Voice of America, Radio Free Asia (RFA), Voice of Democracy and the Phnom Penh Post - had been banned.
"We requested to our committee members, along with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Telecommunications, to close those websites down."
Sovann also requested that certain sites be blocked for 48 hours. "We observed that the contents of those new media are provocative. Those contents are very political in their tendencies, and they are restricting to the election. I don't think it's unfair … It's just for 48 hours before the election."
Hun Sen is the world’s longest-serving prime minister, having ruled Cambodia since 1985.
“By barring the CNRP (Cambodia National Rescue Party) from competing, the government guaranteed this election could neither be genuine, nor free and fair,” Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said of the party which was dissolved last November and it's leader Kem Sokha charged with treason in October.
President of the National Election Committee, Sik Bunhok, disputed the allegations, saying there was “no case of voter intimidation. Cambodia should be proud. This answers the international community’s question about whether Cambodia loves democracy.”
The committee reported that some 6.8 million people cast ballots, a decrease from about 7.1 million in last July’s local election. The government reported an 82.71% turnout, which is higher than in the 2013 election.