11 July 2024

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Cambodia’s ruling party claimed a landslide victory in Senate elections on Sunday, setting the stage for ex-PM Hun Sen to officially return to politics after he stepped down last year.

After nearly four decades of hardline rule, Hun Sen handed power to his eldest son Hun Manet after national polls last July held without any significant opposition.

Hun Sen at the time made it clear that despite his resignation, he still intended to wield influence.

After polls closed Sunday afternoon, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) claimed they had swept the Senate, the country’s upper house.

Spokesman Sok Eysan said early results showed the “CPP won at least 50” of the 58 seats, and added, “obviously, he (Hun Sen) has won a seat.”

He confirmed the party would nominate the ex-PM as the president of the Senate — allowing him to act as head of state when the king is overseas — when it is expected to convene in April.

The National Electoral Committee is expected to take several weeks to publish official results.

Earlier, the 71-year-old lawmaker and chief of the ruling party had cast his ballot near his home in Takhmao city.

Four political parties, including Hun Sen’s ruling CPP, the royalist Funcinpec Party and two small opposition parties participated in the polls.

Of the 62-seat Senate, 58 seats are voted on by 125 MPs and more than 11,000 local administrators.

King Norodom Sihamoni appoints two senators, while the National Assembly appoints two others.

Most eligible voters are members of the CPP — who made a clean sweep of the Senate last election — making Hun Sen’s victory all but certain.

“This is a sign of the Hun family’s further consolidation of power,” said Sebastian Strangio, author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia”, of the move to make Hun Sen Senate president.

“It is better to ensure that the position (does) not fall into a potential rival’s hands.”

Becoming president of the Senate would protect his son and prevent the family’s control being undermined, Strangio added.

Voters in the capital Phnom Penh seemed keen to see Hun Sen back in a position of authority.

“He has a lot of experience, so if he leads the Senate, our country will be prosperous,” commune chief Oeu Siphon told AFP.

The election follows lawmakers approving Hun Sen’s youngest son Hun Many as a deputy prime minister.

The government now includes a number of Hun Sen’s relatives, with several children of his allies also holding top jobs.

After coming to power in 1985, Hun Sen helped modernise a country devastated by civil war and genocide.

But critics say his rule has also been marked by environmental destruction, entrenched graft and the elimination of nearly all political rivals.

by Agence France-Presse