Cambodia Continues Toward Complete Authoritarianism as Southeast Asia Shrugs

Cambodia will hold national elections in July amid an increasingly repressive political environment.

For the first time since 2018, Cambodia will hold national elections in July. But as in 2018, the elections will be completely unfree and unfair, continuing a trend under longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen. During the 2000s and early 2010s, Cambodia had some limited electoral competition; now, Cambodia’s political system is one of complete and total authoritarianism. Also similar to 2018, the main opposition Candlelight Party has been barred from the election. However, this was not the case prior to 2018, when some legitimate opposition parties were allowed to contest elections in Cambodia, even though they had massive obstacles—state control of most broadcast media, unfair election commissions, and outright intimidation—stacked against them. But now the opposition is simply gone.

As Al Jazeera noted in a report on the “election,” “Cambodia’s election commission has disqualified the Candlelight Party, the country’s main opposition party, from contesting July’s election in a move that will allow the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to run virtually unopposed. The commission said the party had failed to submit ‘proper registration documents.’”

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