takhmau – Second Prime Minister Hun Sen said the elections mark a “victory” for Cambodians, especially coming just a year after the bloody clashes in Phnom Penh.
But he said the results would be wasted if they don’t also provide the ticket to international acceptance and an entry into the regional grouping Asean.
“If we’re left outside, this election would be meaningless,” he said Sunday morning. “What belongs to us needs to return to us.”
The remarks came at a press conference at Hun Sen’s sprawling residence, shortly after he marked his ballot, kissed it for good luck and deposited it in the silver metal box at the nearby Teacher Training Center. It was Hun Sen’s first public appearance since undergoing an appendectomy 10 days ago.
“Today, you can witness the achievement of the Cambodian people by the way they are going to the polling station,” said Hun Sen, his own finger stained by the indelible ink.
“Which party will win, we have to wait until after the counting of the ballot,” he said, “but I can tell you that the CPP already is successful, successful in terms that CPP has been very patient.”
By that, Hun Sen referred to keeping a low profile during the campaign and ignoring the “cursing” against the CPP by opposition parties and such media as the Voice of America.
If CPP loses, Hun Sen reiterated his promise to give up power gracefully within five hours. From a front-step view of his expansive estate, he noted that there are coconut trees and pond fish to tend to, golf to be played and a book about Cambodia to be written.
“We’re prepared to transfer power,” he said, so plotting military action against him would be unnecessary. “That would cause death to the people.”
Many Cambodians left Phnom Penh before the elections because of fears that violence may erupt if things don’t go Hun Sen’s way.
As for the more likely possibility of a coalition, Hun Sen said the door is open, but that he would wait for the election results before negotiating. He said the CPP expects to have preliminary results by this evening.
Hun Sen answered a question about political violence leading up to the elections by talking about the number of parties that boisterously campaigned. “One cannot say at the same time we have been intimidated, and then say that they are very popular,” he said. He maintained that the atmosphere overall was good and peaceful.
Hun Sen indicated he still is smarting from the loss in the UN-sponsored 1993 polls, a defeat he alleges resulted from ballot box tampering and other election irregularities.
When asked what Untac’s legacy in Cambodia is, Hun Sen answered, “AIDS.” He later softened that by saying the UN also helped create the parliamentary form of government.
Earlier in the press conference, he noted that Cambodians had organized their election with international help for only $27 million, while Untac had spent $2 billion in 1993.