11 July 2024

Cambodians have begun casting their votes in an election designed to extend strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 33 years in power. The country’s only credible opposition party is not contesting as it has been dissolved.

Anti-Hun Sen activists and opposition figures have launched a so-called “clean finger” campaign to boycott the election.

Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany arrived at a polling station in Kandal province at 7 am.  After casting his ballot, he held up his ink-stained finger with a big smile.

More than eight million voters are registered in the sixth general election since the United Nations first sponsored election in 1993 after the country emerged from decades of war.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has won every election since 1998.   A former member of the Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen has been in power since 1985.

Today’s election is most likely to lead Cambodia into a one-party rule system as no credible opposition party is taking party.   The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)  found by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy was dissolved last year on what critics see as a trumped up charge that it tried to topple the current government.

In recent months, the government has cracked down on the media and non-government organizations, forcing many people targeted to flee the country.   The European Union and at least three other countries, including the United States, Japan and Australia, have announced they were not sending observers to monitor the election.