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Cambodia’s ruling party wins communal elections but new opposition wins

Supporters of the opposition Candlelight Party wave flags as they take part in a campaign rally for the upcoming local elections on June 5, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Prak Chan Thul

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PHNOM PENH, June 6 (Reuters) – Cambodia’s ruling party won a landslide victory in local communal elections, although a new opposition party won more posts than expected, official results showed on Monday.

Communes are Cambodia’s lowest administrative division, but the vote is seen as a proxy for parliamentary elections scheduled for next year. Supporters of the new Candlelight Party hailed its gains as a return to democracy, but also accused the ruling party of bullying and cheating, which the party denied.

With almost all the votes counted, the National Election Committee (NEC) said the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had won 80% of the 11,622 town councilor positions, while the opposition Candlelight Party in won 18%.

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The CPP previously controlled 95% of the posts.

NEC chief Prach Chan said the turnout was 77.91% of the 9.2 million registered voters.

The Candlelight Party largely brings together the former main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was dissolved by a court before the last legislative elections. Its members and supporters are among hundreds who have been jailed for sedition as part of a widespread government crackdown. Read more

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who led the country for 37 years, and the CPP have been condemned by the international community for their actions.

Son Chhay, vice-president of the Candlelight Party, said he hoped to win as many local government posts as possible in the hope of gaining representation at the national level next year.

Opposition supporter and former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said on Twitter that the results showed the Candlelight Party had succeeded in reviving democracy in what was effectively a one-party state in recent years.

“Today, thanks to the courage and intelligence of Cambodian democrats who refuse to give up their struggle, Hun Sen’s monopoly of power is broken at the local level, despite the unfairness of these communal elections,” said Rainsy, who lives in exile in France.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan denied allegations of intimidation and cheating made by the opposition, saying the ruling party won because it had “served the people well”.

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Written by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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