CommentaryPhnom Penh

Cambodia Election Fever

The new-kid-on-the-block Human Rights Party had scant respect for my human right for a midday siesta last Thursday as they came thundering along the road like molten lava flowing downhill, wearing their trademark brilliant canary yellow freshly printed t-shirts.

Caught up in all the enthusiasm and razzmatazz I felt like hastily pulling on a bright yellow t-shirt myself, leaping from my balcony and getting into the swing of it.

They’re bit of a wild card in the election, this Human Rights lot but a lot more folks are predicting an election landslide victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen who has now closed his normally busy mouth and will be giving nothing but the ice to his opponents (and rice and t-shirts to his followers) for the remainder of this month long campaign.

Here in Phnom Penh, he looks more unassailable than ever, having safely seen off rumours being whispered after the last election that the CPP tribe may turn on its chief.

This unassailability could be something to do with the fact that since 2003 Khmers have been enriching themselves, benefiting especially from the peace and stability that has led to land prices rocketing (most Khmers own their houses or land) and which has in turn attracted overseas investment into Cambodia to kick-start a burgeoning private sector.

Meanwhile, contenders to Hun Sen have spent the last five years in a spiral dive, noses down and smoke trailing. Sam Rainsy’s self-named Sam Rainsy Party has been vanishing around him for years, with numerous representatives defecting to Hun Sen’s CPP, lured by the prospect of power and, some would say, hefty amounts of cash. Rainsy himself, as ever, is tied up in a spot of legal bother.

Funcinpec (winner of the first post UNTAC election and loser of 1997’s coup) has imploded since the last election and its former leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh (now leader of the self named Norodom Ranariddh Party) hasn’t been seen in the realm since his conviction for fraud. At the helm these days is Keo Puth Rasmey, husband of Princess Norodom Arun Rasmey who just so happens to be daughter of former King Norodom Sihanouk, thereby providing an pole of attraction for ardent loyalists and fans of the old king.
A firecracker could have been tossed into the campaign by the publication of new inflation figures showing exactly what everybody knows already – that food prices have rocketed. The figures have been quietly buried.

The other negative which could possibly be tossed onto the charge sheet later on would be yet more Mugabe-ish ‘war veteran’ type behaviour (out in the provinces and away from the media’s eyes), of the sort that has marred previous elections.

Of course the opposition might do unexpectedly well but only if we invest the modal auxiliary ‘might’ if with such an enormous boost to the throttle that it ceases to have any meaning in its real sense.
Our prediction at 440 is that on polling day votes will come in a torrent, like the rain that falls in Cambodia from July to October and that this falling torrent will wash away what is left of any meaningful political opposition here, which could lead to the biggest landmark of all in post UNTAC Cambodian history – the CPP winning an election without being accused of rigging it.

[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *