Cambodian opposition can only get stronger
Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy is crying over spilt milk when he calls for a series of protests against official ratification of the 28 July election results unless the authorities in Phnom Penh prove that no irregularities took place in the polling.
The opposition aims to use the protests from 15-17 September to change the game, forcing the National Election Commission to re-examine the results.
The Election Commission on Sunday officially ratified the results, giving Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) 68 seats and the CNRP 55 seats. A legal challenge from Sam Rainsy to scrutinise the election has already been rejected, shutting down one option for the opposition to carry on the struggle to overturn the results.
Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than 28 years, will convene the first session of the new parliament and eventually form his new cabinet without the participation of the opposition.
It will be difficult for the CNRP to get the election results changed. The margin of 13 seats between winner and loser is not close enough to grant an immediate recount.
Street protests might be a legitimate way to oppose the government, but such action could affect political stability. The country is peaceful at present, but there is always the possibility of such action ending in chaos and violence.
By accepting the election results, Sam Rainsy and the CNRP can now begin to rock Hun Sen’s boat even harder. The opposition has enough votes to request extraordinary sessions of parliament, to call for closed sessions, to ask high-ranking officials to clarify key issues and to request deliberation of motions to censure or dismiss any members of the cabinet.
If Sam Rainsy does not really want executive power, as he has said, then working as a forceful and effective opposition leader is not a bad choice in his career at this stage. As the opposition gathers strength, he might later change his mind about taking the helm.