July 2023 | Hun Sen wins fraudulent election and ‘steps aside’
Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party declared victory in National Assembly elections held on 23 July, winning 120 of 125 seats in a stage-managed contest which was held to be neither free nor fair by opposition, election observers, and foreign diplomats. The main opposition Candlelight Party was disqualified in May, and other key opposition figures had been systematically forced into exile or imprisoned on trumped-up charges in recent years. On 26 July, Prime Minister Hun made the expected announcement that he would resign in August and hand over power to his son, Hun Manet, but promised “even if I am no longer a prime minister, I will still control politics as the head of the ruling party.” Women’s representation in the new parliament is 10.4 per cent, down from 20.8 per cent previously and the lowest in twenty years.
June 2023 | Future candidates must vote now, parliament says
Cambodia’s parliament amended an electoral law on 23 June to bar anyone who does not vote in the 23 July general election from running for future office. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party will be running essentially unopposed in the upcoming election, as a long-running campaign of intimidation has left nearly all political opponents exiled or in jail, and the sole opposition party, the Candlelight Party, was disqualified in May 2023.
May 2023 | Candlelight Party excluded from July national elections
The main opposition party, the Candlelight Party (CLP), was disqualified from competing in July’s national election. Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) refused to accept the CLP application for July polls because it didn’t include a notarized copy of the party’s registration document. The decision was then confirmed by the Constitutional Council, which rejected CPL’s appeal against NEC's ruling. The CLP, which captured around 22 percent of the popular vote at commune elections in 2022, was seen as the only party challenging the Cambodian People's Party (CPP). As the main opposition party, the CLP has faced constant intimidation and pressure, including politically motivated lawsuits and violent attacks on opposition activists and supporters. Analysts and human rights groups argue that CLP exclusion guarantees CPP and its current leader, Hun Sen, victory in what will be elections that are neither free nor fair.
February 2023 | PM Hun Sen shuts down Voice of Democracy
On 13 February Prime Minister Hun Sen revoked the operating license of the Voice of Democracy (VOD), one of the country’s last operating independent media outlets. On 9 February VOD had reported Hun Sen's son, Hun Manet, had overreached his authority by signing an aid agreement to support Turkey’s earthquake recovery effort on behalf of the prime minister. After Hun Manet denied the story, VOD updated the article with new information and the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) – the NGO running VOD and registered with the Ministry of Interior – sent a letter to Hun Sen's Cabinet apologizing for any confusion, explaining that VOD only quoted a government spokesperson. PM Hun Sen rejected the apology and issued the order to revoke VOD’s license and encouraged newly unemployed VOD staff to apply for government jobs. The UN has called for reinstatement of VOD.