One Cambodian voter defaced his or her ballot with a lively reference to a dog’s anatomy. Others ticked every single box, or crossed out the entire ballot. Still others drew pictures of the sun, the symbol of the outlawed main opposition party. After Sunday’s general election, which was roundly condemned as a sham by Western governments and human rights groups, Cambodia is all but officially a one-party state. The Cambodian People’s Party of Hun Sen, the longtime prime minister, claims it captured every one of the 125 seats in Parliament. But the second-largest number of votes went to a surprising beneficiary: no one. Around 600,000 Cambodian voters, or 8.6 percent of the electorate, cast inadmissible ballots, according to the National Election Committee.
During the last general election in 2013, which the opposition nearly won, only 108,085 invalid ballots were recorded.
The surprisingly high number of invalid ballots hinted at quiet defiance from an electorate cowed into voting, but distressed by the kneecapping of democracy in Cambodia.
Exiled leaders of the opposition had called for a boycott of the poll. But the authorities spread the word, in villages and urban areas alike, that the state would be watching to see whether voters had fulfilled their duty. On the eve of the election, Mr. Hun Sen warned that those who dared to skip the voting were “traitors.”