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Cambodia’s electoral body confirms Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party as the winner after the final standings of the vote

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s electoral body on Saturday announced the final results of last month’s elections, sealing a landslide victory for long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party and a mandate for the next five years.

In an announcement on TVK state television and government social media platforms, the country’s National Election Commission said Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won 120 of the 125 available seats in the July 23 general election.

The royalist Funcinpec party won five seats, while none of the other 16 political parties won seats.

The Cambodian People’s Party received 6,398,311 votes out of a total of 8.2 million votes cast. Funcinpec received 716,490 popular votes. 8.2 million paper ballots were cast, including more than 7.7 million valid votes and 440,154 invalid votes by the committee.

In a much-anticipated move, Hun Sen announced on July 27 that he would step down at the end of the month, handing over the premiership to his eldest son, Hun Manet, the country’s army chief.

The change to the Cambodian People’s Party comes after an election that was criticized by Western countries and rights organizations as neither free nor fair, largely because the country’s largest opposition, the Candlelight Party, was excluded from the election.

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The new national leader, Hun Manet, 45, won his first seat in parliament in July’s elections. The handover is part of a larger generational shift: many younger lawmakers are expected to hold ministerial positions, including Hun Sen’s youngest son and others related to older party members.

Many were educated in the West, such as Hun Manet, who has a bachelor’s degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, a master’s degree from New York University, and a doctorate from Bristol University in Britain, all in economics .

Hun Sen, who turned 71 on Saturday, gradually tightened his grip on power over 38 years in office, making him Asia’s longest-serving leader. He also ushered in a free market economy that raised the standard of living for many Cambodians.

Although stepping aside for his heir, Hun Sen is expected to retain much of the control as chairman of his party and as chairman of the Senate.

“I will still be able to serve the interests of the people and help the government monitor the country’s security and public order, and guide the development of the country with them,” Hun Sen said. on July 27.

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Hun Sen first rose to prominence as a middle-ranking commander in the radical communist regime of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians from starvation, disease and executions.

He defected to neighboring Vietnam and quickly became a senior member of the new Cambodian government when Hanoi removed the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979 and helped end three decades of civil war.

Under Hun Sen, Cambodia moved up from a low-income country to lower-middle-income status in 2015 and expects to reach middle-income status by 2030, according to the World Bank.

Despite the overall improvement, the gap between Cambodia’s rich and poor has widened, deforestation has spread at an alarming rate, and land grabbing by Hun Sen’s domestic allies and foreign investors is rife.

Following a 2013 challenge from the opposition Cambodian National Salvation Party, which the Cambodian People’s Party narrowly defeated at the polls, Hun Sen responded by going after opposition leaders, leading to the party’s eventual dissolution by the country’s sympathetic courts .

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Ahead of last month’s election, the pattern of crushing serious opposition repeated itself when the National Election Commission used a technical glitch to ban the Candlelight Party, the unofficial successor to the Cambodian National Salvation Party.

The European Union said the vote was “held in a limited political and social space where the opposition, civil society and the media could not function effectively without hindrance”.

The US went a step further, saying it had taken steps to impose visa restrictions “on individuals who undermined democracy and enacted a pause in foreign aid programs” after it was found that the election was “neither free nor fair”.

In his first post-election appearance on Thursday to inaugurate the new government, Hun Sen said that after the election commission’s final result was announced, he intended to nominate Hun Manet as King Norodom Sihamoni’s next prime minister on August 2. supports. 7.

Hun Sen declared Thursday’s event as his last speech as prime minister, saying the newly elected National Assembly will hold its first meeting on August 21 and confirm the new leadership of the lower house and cabinet ministers the following day.

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