Picture this: It’s Election Day, and you get up to cast your vote only to learn that there’s just one major party to vote for and a bunch of unknown parties you’ve barely even heard of. You scratch your head and wonder: Am I really voting if there’s only one real party to vote for?
That’s what governments around the world are wondering as well with the recent results of Cambodia’s general election. This week, Cambodia’s ruling party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), declared a landslide victory, claiming over seventy-seven percent of the votes and a majority of the seats in parliament. Now, a landslide victory in a democratic election is absolutely possible, but world leaders, human rights groups, political analysts, and opposition leaders are questioning the results of this particular election—some are even calling it a sham! Why? Well, first of all, Prime Minister Hun Sen accused Kem Sokha, the leader of the opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), of treason last year. He was arrested and has been in jail ever since. A few months later, the Supreme Court ruled that the CNRP was working with foreign governments to overthrow the current government. As a result, the CNRP was dissolved, and members of the party fled to other countries in fear for their lives. What else? Months leading up to the election, Prime Minister Hun Sen forced independent media outlets to shut down and arrested journalists, claiming that they were conspiring against the government. Even efforts to boycott the election were stopped by the CPP after members of the party threatened factory workers with loss of jobs and evictions (or getting kicked out of their houses) if they decided not to cast their votes.
While the official election results won’t be announced until early to mid-August, the CPP has already declared victory. But is there a real winner in an election when it is an unfair election to begin with? And can a country call an election democratic when it destroys an opposition party from competing? What do you think?