Cambodia’s opposition made significant gains in local elections against the ruling party of authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday, according to the first results. The election for more than 1,600 communes would not mean a major shift in power, but could be a springboard for next year’s general election, in which Hun Sen aims to extend more than three decades in power in the Southeast Asian country. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won 11 out of the first 80 communes for which results were declared. In the last local election, the ruling Cambodia National Rescue Party won 97 percent against a divided opposition.
“This is a huge success for the CNRP,” said opposition parliamentarian Yim Sovann. He told a news briefing that preliminary results from party agents showed it had won about 46 percent of the communes.
A pro-government news site gave results suggesting the opposition had won around a third of the communes.
Human rights groups had accused Hun Sen’s government of undermining democracy after his campaign warnings of violence if his party did not keep control and the arrest of some prominent critics and activists. But no major trouble was reported on Sunday.