Cambodia’s Opposition Needs to Take a Sabbatical

Opposition parties should take a page out of the ruling CPP’s book and begin a process of generational renewal.

In April, Cambodia’s former Prime Minister Hun Sen will end his eight-month sabbatical. After resigning from his position as prime minister last year, after almost four decades in the job, to make way for his eldest son, he will return to frontline politics as the new president of the Senate. His ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 55 of the 58 available seats in the Senate at Sunday’s elections.

Cambodia’s opposition movement could do with a sabbatical, too. The Candlelight Party, the only opposition party to control commune council positions, wasn’t allowed to stand in the Senate elections, just as it wasn’t at last year’s general elections, over a trumped-up issue of paperwork, a problem that isn’t about to go away. In October, it formed an alliance with three other parties, one of which, the Khmer Will Party, probably won three Senate seats. But the CPP – or, rather, the Hun family – now have such a stranglehold over every political and social institution in Cambodia that this might be the point to say that opposition politics, as it currently exists, is dead and there is no use in lurching onward, grasping at every failure in the belief that it’s actually a sign of possibility.

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