There were no surprises in the sham election Cambodia staged in July. Long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen had made clear he would brook no opposition to his Cambodian People’s Party continuing its decades-long hold on power.
Long before the vote, all critical media was silenced, and the largest opposition party to Hun Sen, the Candlelight Party, was barred from participating on specious legal grounds. Cambodians hungry for change had little choice other than to spoil their ballots, and nearly a half-million people did so, defying Hun Sen’s threats of prosecution. Most foreign election observers rightly stayed away, rather than legitimizing what was essentially a charade.
But Hun Sen nonetheless deemed the farce a landslide victory and announced that he will step down as prime minister after nearly 40 years and turn over the position to his son, Hun Manet, a West Point-trained general and army chief who was just elected to a parliamentary seat from the capital, Phnom Penh. The transition could come as early as this month, although the mercurial Hun Sen has been known to make public announcements and then change his mind.