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Opinion

Cambodia's Potemkin election -- what will come next?

Fresh challenges loom for long-ruling Hun Sen

| Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen smiles during a rally in Kandal province on July 4.   © Reuters

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to step down if his party does not prevail at national elections on July 29. It is not a difficult promise for the aging leader to make: Over the past year, his government has effectively removed all meaningful opposition from the field. It has arrested the opposition leader, Kem Sokha, on charges of treason; dissolved his party, the popular Cambodia National Rescue Party; rewritten the Constitution to safeguard the rule of the ruling Cambodian People's Party; and used threats of legal action to force Cambodia's once-vocal civil society into a self-preservational silence.

These efforts effectively ensure victory for the ruling party, and all but guarantee that Hun Sen will avoid the shock defeat that befell Prime Minister Najib Razak in Malaysia's general election in May. With the July 29 election seemingly a foregone conclusion, attention now turns to what comes after. Hun Sen may be free from the friction of political opposition, but the recent crackdown has done little to resolve a number of challenges that will do much to determine the longer-term viability of his party's rule.

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