Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen launched his campaign for Cambodia’s next general election on Saturday with a rally that drew 80,000 to 100,000 supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in Koh Pich, Rasmei Kamputchea Daily reported.
“I would like to appeal to our Cambodian fellows as well as the members of CPP to excise your rights to take part in this election with high responsibility by going to vote, and vote for CPP which has Angel’s flower blessing dance emblem and is listed number 20th on the ballot sheet,” Hun Sen said at the rally.
He assured voters that supporting the CPP would mean voting for national sovereignty, peace, stability and development, as well as the continued improvement of people’s livelihoods, according to the Rasmei Kamputchea Daily.
Hun Sen’s promises include a pledge to reduce the price of electricity for all users from 2019, Channel News Asia reported – an attractive offer given that electricity in Cambodia costs more than almost anywhere else in the world.
He has also said he will increase wages for factory workers, civil servants and armed forces every year, Reuters reported.
The CPP, which has ruled Cambodia for decades, will be going up against 19 other parties in the country’s rapidly approaching general election, due to be held on July 29.
The parties also launched their campaigns on Saturday, with The League of Democracy party and royalist Funcinpec Party drawing crowds of 15,000 and 2,000 supporters respectively, Rasmei Kamputchea Daily reported.
Despite the large number of parties contesting the election, most seem to regard the general election as a thinly disguised one-horse race.
The main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was disbanded in November last year, a month after its leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested for allegedly attempting to stage a foreign-backed “colour revolution” to overthrow the government.
Widely regarded as the country’s only viable opposition party, the CNRP performed surprisingly well in Cambodia’s last general election in 2013 in which it won 44 per cent of the vote, establishing itself as a genuine threat to the CPP’s continued dominance of the country’s political scene.
Aside from political opponents, voices of dissent in the media have also been silenced, with many of Cambodia’s independent and foreign-owned media outlets forced to close.
The situation in Cambodia has been widely criticized, with the United States and European Union withdrawing funding for the election, though China has stepped forward to back it.
Exiled opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, has also urged citizens to boycott the election, a move which was slammed by the prime minister.