Cambodia’s Local Elections Have Ended Hun Sen’s One-Party System

Despite another victory for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, an old opposition party has pried back open the political space.

Almost all of the observers of the local or communal elections held in Cambodia on June 5 have spoken of a “crushing victory” for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and a heavy defeat for the opposition. I would like to give another interpretation of the results, starting with an exercise in political logic.

Imagine the case of a political party with the following characteristics:

  • Until just a few months before the day of the vote, the party had lost all of its human and material resources and had been simply an empty, abandoned shell for 10 years.
  • During this ten-year period, the leader and founder of the party was forced out of the country for eight years and remains in exile. He is considered a “convict” whose name must not be mentioned. All the other former leaders of the party are also banned from politics.
  • This party, decapitated and drained of its lifeblood, further faces the constant threat of formal dissolution, a death sentence that the authorities could carry out at any moment.

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