- The ruling culminates a government crackdown on the opposition, independent media, and non-governmental organisations during the past five months, indicating a return to authoritarianism in Cambodia.
- The dissolution of the CNRP removes the only significant electoral challenge to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in the upcoming national elections in July 2018, turning Cambodia into a de facto one-party system.
- The risk of violent protests that could disrupt businesses will increase in the run-up to the 2018 elections; however, these are unlikely to threaten political or policy continuity.
On 16 November, the Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Its decision was based on an alleged plot to overthrow the government. The politically motivated ruling culminates a government crackdown against the opposition, independent media, and non-governmental organisations during the past five months. The clampdown included the arrest in September of CNRP President Kem Sokha for treason, closure of nearly 20 radio stations, including the US-backed radio outlet Radio Free Asia, and the shutting of independent newspaper The Cambodia Daily . Additionally, the US-funded National Democratic Institute was expelled under the pretext of tax and administrative irregularities.
The CNRP has been gaining electoral ground since 2013, winning nearly 44% of the vote in the June 2017 local elections versus the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)’s 50%. Although there are other minor parties in Cambodia, the CNRP’s dissolution effectively marks the end of multiparty democracy reinstated in 1993 by removing the only electoral challenge to the CPP ahead of upcoming national elections on 29 July 2018.
Move towards authoritarianism
Under the newly amended election law, the CNRP’s dissolution paves the way for its 55 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly to be redistributed among six minor parties, including the CPP-aligned FUNCINPEC. It also provides greater control of local grassroots politics to the government by allowing the CPP to take the CNRP’s commune and district seats where the CPP received the next-highest amount of votes.
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