Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy says U.S. officials are sympathetic to his party’s call for an independent investigation into alleged voting irregularities in the country’s July election.
Rainsy met in Washington with Deputy U.S. Secretary of State William Burns and members of the U.S. Congress, as well as with representatives of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. “Officials in the U.S. that I have met understand the situation in Cambodia very well,” he said during a visit to VOA Thursday. “They understand that the recent elections were problematic and that the results as proclaimed by the authorities are controversial.”
The July election saw the Cambodian People’s Party, the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, reduce its majority in the National Assembly, keeping 68 seats. Rainsy’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party won 55 seats, an increase of 26.
The ruling party denies any irregularities, and the result was upheld by the National Election Commission and the Constitutional Court. Hun Sen has been in power for 28 years.
However, Rainsy says European officials want further information before backing an investigation. “The most blatant violations concern the non-respect of the principal of pluralism,” he said. “The constitution states that Cambodia should follow a democratic system based on pluralism, but actually Cambodia has returned to a one-party system.”
Talks at a 'stalemate'
Following the election, Hun Sen and Rainsy tried to negotiate a resolution to the political dispute, but the talks failed. Rainsy characterizes the discussions as “a stalemate” and a “real deadlock,” because the government denies any wrongdoing, and wants to proceed despite the controversy. But opposition members have refused to take their seats in the National Assembly and have launched demonstrations to protest the election results.
Rainsy believes Cambodia has witnessed dramatic political change in recent years. “The balance of power has changed dramatically in the sense that for the first time there is a united democratic opposition which represents more than half of the country,” he said. Rainsy said the ruling party’s declining results in the recent election were “unprecedented.”
Cambodia, like many countries, is also seeing political change because of social media, according to Rainsy. “Without social media, especially Facebook, we would not have experienced such developments in Cambodia and this is related to the emergence of the youth, the demographics play in favor of democracy, because the youth are the spearhead of democratic change in Cambodia,” he said.