Cambodia set to give Hun Sen another mandate

Cambodians voting in Sunday’s general election will have a nominal choice of 20 parties, but in reality, only two serious options — extend Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 33 years in power, or do not vote at all.

The key factor virtually ensuring a walkover by Mr. Hun Sen’s party is the elimination of any credible opposition, accomplished last November when the Supreme Court declared the Cambodian National Rescue Party complicit in trying to overthrow the government in a plot encouraged by the United States.

The court ordered the party dissolved, also banning its leaders from holding office for five years and expelling its members from the elective positions they held. One party leader already was in exile and the other in jail awaiting trial on the treason charge.

Along with fracturing the political opposition, Mr. Hun Sen’s government silenced critical voices in the media, shutting down about 30 radio stations and gutting two English-language newspapers that provided independent reporting. A law was passed putting burdensome restrictions on the country’s vibrant civil society organisations.

On Saturday, Cambodian authorities acknowledged ordering the temporary blocking of 17 websites just ahead of the polls, citing regulations prohibiting media from disseminating information that might affect security after Friday’s official end of campaigning.

Information Ministry Director General for Broadcasting and Media Phos Sovann said the websites, which he described as biased against the government, would be accessible again on Sunday.

With control of the legislature and the bureaucracy, as well as influence over the judiciary, there are no checks and balances on Hun Sen’s administration.

The leaders of the now defunct opposition party, most of whom have fled into exile to avoid arbitrary arrest, have called for a boycott of the polls.

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