PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The Cambodian ruling party won Sunday's expected election victory largely illegitimate after the only credible opposition was silenced, and longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen will serve another five-year term.
Although 20 parties denied the election, the only one with the popularity and organization to start a real challenge, the Cambodian National Salvation Party was dissolved in a ruling by the Supreme Court last year
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith affirmed to The Associated Press that the Cambodian People's Party led the polling stations. He did not say how many of the 1
Local and foreign legal groups, along with several Western governments, had agreed that the election would not be credible.
They were neither free nor fair; the former leaders of the disbanded CNRP had urged people not to take part in a so-called "clean finger" campaign because those who cast ballots dipped their fingers in indelible ink.
According to detailed figures released by the National Electoral Committee, more than 6.8 million registered voters or 82.2 percent have submitted ballots.
The number would suggest, if correct, the promotion of an election boycott by opposition forces was ineffective. In the last elections in 2013, the turnout was 6.6 million or 68.5 percent of the 9.7 million registered voters.
Hun Sen said on his Facebook page, before the results were announced, that he welcomed the large participation and congratulated his compatriots exercising their suffrage.
However, threats have already been reported against people planning a boycott. In rural areas where the majority live, someone who has not voted – the lack of ink on their fingers – may be subject to retaliation by local civil servant officials, such as the Land Registry.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital and a stronghold of the opposition, was less vulnerable to such threats because of its higher visibility and security in numbers. However, according to the electoral committee, voter turnout even amounted to 80 percent.
Doubts about actual turnout probably stemmed from several established electoral observation groups – as well as US and European Union quotas – and refused to participate in opinion polls that they considered illegitimate. One of the larger Cambodian groups watching the polls is led by one of the sons of Hun Sen.
After the election, exile opposition leader Sam Rainsy called for peaceful protests, calling them "a bogus ballot with an agreed outcome".
From the south of Paris in Freteval, where he lives, Sam Rainsy told The Associated Press that "it's a meaningless victory because (Hun Sen) won without a real challenger … before the election he solved the only credible one opposition party. "
The Cambodian People's Party of Hun Sen was alarmed at the results of the 2013 elections, when the people were close enough that the opposition could win, voter registration had not been manipulated Political opposition – including the pressure Sam Rainsy into exile and the Detention of his successor, Kem Sokha – Hun Sens government also stopped critical voices in the media. Last year, about 30 radio stations were shut down, and two English-language newspapers that provided serious coverage were gutted, one forced to close and the other friends of the government.
On the eve of elections The government ordered the temporary blocking of 17 websites, citing regulations prohibiting the media from disseminating information that could affect security. The blocked websites included the US Government-funded Voice of America and local media.
Hun Sen, whose 33 years in power are among the world's longest-standing heads of state, pledged peace and prosperity in an election campaign Friday, but attacked the opposition boycott call and called those who regard it as "destroyers of democracy." ,
Hun Sen, 65, has said that he wants to stay in power for at least another five years.
He was a member of radical communist Khmer Rouge during his successful five-year war to overthrow a pro-US government, and then set off for Vietnam during the genocidal regime of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, which killed nearly 2 million Cambodians , He became prime minister in a Vietnamese-backed communist government in 1985 and led Cambodia through a civil war against the Khmer Rouge, which eased with the Paris Peace Accords of 1991, which also established a democratic political framework.
___  Associated Press writer Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.
This story was corrected to show Rainsy spoke of Freteval, not Paris.
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