Prime Minister Hun Sen set the date for next year’s national election as July 29, officially backtracking on a deal his ruling CPP made with the opposition in 2014 to hold the poll during the dry season.
As required by the law on national elections, the prime minister set the date in a decision signed on Friday. In a separate decision signed the same day, he also set the next elections for the Senate—most of whose members are voted in by the country’s commune councilors—for January 14.
The law says elections for the National Assembly will be held every five years but gives no other guidelines for setting the date.
In 2014, in a package of concessions to woo the CNRP back to the Assembly after a monthslong boycott, the CPP agreed to hold the next national election in February to avoid potential disruptions from rainy season floods.
The next year, however, Mr. Hun Sen backtracked and called the opposition “stupid” for believing an offer that was never put in writing. He also argued that the change would require a constitutional amendment the CPP would surely block.
CNRP officials could not be reached on Sunday for comment.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, a nongovernmental watchdog, said Mr. Hun Sen was well within his rights to set the date he did. But, like the opposition, he still believed the election would run more smoothly in the dry season, when there was little chance of floods closing down polling stations and making it harder for voters to cast their ballots.
“We suggested the election date should be early,” he said. “Not so much…risk of flooding and heavy raining.”
Mr. Panha said the national poll had always been held in July since the return of democratic elections in the 1990s except for the first, organized by the U.N. in 1993, which fell in May, when the rainy season usually gets underway.
Hang Puthea, spokesman for the National Election Committee (NEC), which runs the country’s polls, said the body was used to dealing with flooding and downplayed any concerns.
“The NEC seems to be accustomed to it,” he said. “The elections have faced flooding before.”