How the Candlelight Party Can Restore Political Pluralism to Cambodia

After the arbitrary dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the growing strength of the Candlelight Party shows that the desire for democratic change can’t be wiped out at the stroke of a pen.

Cambodia went back in time to the status of a single party state in 2017 with the arbitrary dissolution of the CNRP, which was the only parliamentary opposition party. Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power since 1985, judged that the party was too serious a threat to be allowed to compete in the national elections of 2018. By getting rid of the CNRP, which, despite government manipulation, had officially secured close to half the votes in preceding elections, Hun Sen ensured that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 100 percent of the seats in the National Assembly.

With an eye on the future and his own survival, Hun Sen took the measures necessary to block any way back for the CNRP. All the leaders of the party have been accused of “sedition” or “treason” and are banned from political activity. In an atmosphere of continuing repression, no opposition seems possible any longer. Apart from the CPP, there are just some minuscule parties, most of which seem to have been created simply to present a façade of “pluralist democracy” designed for international consumption.

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