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Cambodian MPs re-elect Hun Sen amid opposition boycott

AFP-JIJI

Cambodia’s parliament reappointed strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen for another five-year term Tuesday, extending his nearly three-decade rule as the opposition threatened to mount fresh protests over fiercely disputed elections.

The controversial move came despite recent mass public demonstrations and a boycott of parliament by Hun Sen’s political rivals, who have alleged widespread fraud in the July polls.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) refused to take its seats for the opening session of the lower house Monday, saying the kingdom was sliding toward “dictatorship.”

All 68 ruling party lawmakers on Tuesday agreed on a list of government members and reappointed Hun Sen as premier through a show of hands.

The CNRP, which alleges widespread vote irregularities, has described the legislature as a “one-party parliament” and warned of fresh protests in the capital.

“There will be mass protests in Phnom Penh and nationwide,” party spokesman Yim Sovann said after Hun Sen’s re-election.

“The CNRP will continue to seek truth and justice for the voters,” he added.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has rejected the opposition’s call for an independent probe into the election.

Speaking after his reappointment, Hun Sen blamed the CNRP for the absence of an opposition in the National Assembly.

“We cannot become hostages to any group,” he told reporters.

He said his government had not “closed the door” to the opposition and had offered their lawmakers the posts of deputy parliamentary president and chairmanship of several committees.

If the opposition wants to negotiate further its MPs must first be sworn in, Hun Sen said.

According to official results, the CPP won 68 seats against 55 for the CNRP in the July polls.

The number is enough for the government to pass legislation in the lower house. But experts have said the government risks being seen as lacking legitimacy if it introduces laws without an opposition in parliament.

“Throughout these elections, we have seen the Cambodian people making their voices heard and demanding real change,” said Ou Virak, of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.