PHNOM PENH (Cambodia) -- The long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Party easily topped the field in local elections as expected, according to an initial tabulation by the National Election Committee Monday.
The official final results from Sunday's elections are expected to be published on June 26. A statement by the committee on Monday said that Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won 9,338 of the 11,622 contested commune council seats.
According to Bayon Radio, Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Sen received 5.3 millions votes for his party, while the Candlelight Party received 1.6 million votes. The royalist Funcinpec Party received 900,000.
Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler of a nominally democratic country, has been in power for 37 years. He stated that he plans to remain in office until 2028, and he has supported one of his sons for the job.
Sunday's turnout was 80.19%, which is slightly more than the initial 77% reported, Dim Sovanarum, spokesperson for the election committee, said Monday.
The elections held in communes one year before the general election are considered a test of the strengths of the competing parties.
For decades, the power of the Cambodia People's Party has been held in a firm grip. It has the advantage of being able to control almost all levels of both local and national government. Its adversaries were less organized, had fewer resources, and more afraid of intimidation.
The only serious opposition and political rival to the ruling party, the Candlelight Party won 2,119 seats in council.
It is the official successor to the Cambodia National Rescue Party. This party was a stronger challenger to the ruling party during the 2017 communal elections.
The Supreme Court disbanded the Cambodian National Rescue Party ahead of the 2018 general elections on the weakly supported ground that it was involved with treasonous activities.
All Cambodian National Rescue Party members were removed from their elected positions at the local and national levels. The court decision kept the party off the ballot for the 2018 election. This allowed Hun Sen to sweep all of the seats in Hun Sen's National Assembly.
On Sunday, the royalist Funcinpec Party took home 19 seats. Six other parties were left with a few seats.
Monday's statement by the Candlelight Party claimed that the polls were not free or fair.
It claimed that it was intimidated by authorities starting at the time the lists of its candidates were being prepared and ending with the election observers.
The National Election Committee failed to act on the complaints of vote-buying or threats. Some of its observers as well as independent poll watch groups were also prevented from watching the count.
According to the party, the election committee was biased against the Cambodian People's Party. Its members filled all levels of its ranks.