With the initial election results confirming the ruling party’s sweeping victory, securing 120 out of the 125 parliament seats, international reactions have varied greatly. The final decision, however, lies in Cambodia’s hands, as stated by its foreign ministry.
The Chinese leaders, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, have publicly applauded the election results. In personal letters to Prime Minister Hun Sen, they conveyed their congratulations to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and lauded the smooth management of the election process.
In his letter dated July 25, Xi expressed his delight at the news of CPP’s triumphant election outcome for the seventh mandate.
“On behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China [CPC] and in my own name, I extend warm congratulations to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP Central Committee,” he wrote.
Xi commended the CPP-led government for its achievements in political stability, economic growth, improvement in living standards, and increasing international and regional prominence.
“China will continue to support Cambodia in pursuing a development path that suits its national conditions,” he declared, pledging his commitment to working with the CPP.
In his concluding statement, Xi expressed eagerness to collaborate closely with Hun Sen.
“I am eager to join forces with the Prime Minister to bolster our bilateral relations through enhanced political direction.
“I aim to deepen mutual exchanges and collaboration in multiple sectors, in an effort to construct a superior and mutually beneficial China-Cambodia community of common destiny. This, I believe, will greatly benefit both our countries and peoples in this new era,” Xi stated.
Echoing Xi’s sentiments, Li emphasised the enduring bond between China and Cambodia, asserting that the two nations are “true friends withstanding thicks and thins and good brothers with genuine mutual trust”.
Li also expressed his readiness to collaborate with Hun Sen in various sectors, aiming to further enrich the new China-Cambodia “diamond” cooperation framework, bringing greater benefits to both nations.
In contrast, some Western nations including the US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Australia and the EU have expressed reservations about the election results.
France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs was critical of the election in a July 24 statement, noting the absence of the main opposition Candlelight Party (CP), which was disqualified from the polls for non-compliance with the National Election Committee’s (NEC) regulations.
This exclusion, the statement said, undermined the pluralist nature of the general election. It also called for the release of detained opposition members and urged Cambodian authorities to respect the fundamental rights necessary for the restoration of democracy, in line with the provisions of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements and the Cambodian Constitution.
Similar concerns were echoed by other European nations, including Germany’s foreign ministry, which described the election atmosphere as a “restrictive political environment”.
However, despite their misgivings, they expressed a willingness to work with the new CPP-led government.
“We encourage the newly elected members of parliament and the government to fully reinstate conditions for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights, as guaranteed by Cambodia’s constitution and in line with Cambodia’s commitments under the Paris Peace Agreements,” urged Germany’s Federal Foreign Office.
The Diplomatic Service of the EU also underscored the importance of political pluralism.
“We continually extend our support to authentic democratic endeavours in Cambodia. Concurrently, we appeal to the authorities to uphold the fundamental rights of the Cambodian people, adhere to their Constitution and respect the international standards to which Cambodia is committed,” they said in a statement.
“The [EU] has always been a trusted and longstanding partner of Cambodia, particularly in the ASEAN context.”
Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation responded by declaring that the July 23 election was a testament to vibrant democracy, highlighting the high turnout of over 8.2 million voters exercising their constitutional rights to choose their future leaders.
The ministry touted the turnout of 84.58 per cent, which it said surpassed the previous four national polls since 2003. It characterised this as a clear demonstration of the vibrancy of the Kingdom’s democracy, reflecting the citizens’ trust in the electoral process.
The ministry also emphasised that the high turnout occurred despite calls for electoral boycotts and smear campaigns by “extremist” opposition factions seeking regime change through undemocratic tactics.
“Cambodia’s sovereign right to self-determination shall be respected by all external actors,” it asserted.
The ministry also highlighted that the election was observed by 422 international observers from 61 institutions, representing 65 nationalities. The process was also monitored by nearly 60,000 agents of various political parties and 90,000 independent national observers.
“The voting process exemplified a genuine political pluralism, offering Cambodian citizens and their respective political parties with an equal and fair opportunity to engage in political contests within the confines of the law,” it said.
The statement was supported by ASEAN secretary-general Kao Kim Hourn, who also led a delegation to observe the election campaign and the election process in Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal province.
In a statement made on July 24, the ASEAN Secretariat noted their observations from the polling stations. They reported seeing long queues of voters, a sight which they believe clearly demonstrated the commitment and active engagement of the Cambodian people in the political and democratic process.
They saw this as a testament to the citizens’ eagerness to exercise their right to vote, and their determination to elect their own leaders.
“Voting was generally peaceful, orderly and without any violence,” said the statement.
Kim Hourn was also quoted in the statement as saying: “We are very grateful for the opportunity to directly observe the ongoing democratic journey of modern-day Cambodia and pleased to congratulate the NEC for its professionalism and competency as well as the people of Cambodia for their active and willing participation in the multiparty election.”
Seun Sam, a political analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, emphasised that Cambodia has the sovereign right to make its own decisions.
Additionally, Sam highlighted the importance of international recognition of the election, particularly from countries that import Cambodian products.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Centre for Development and Peace, said that any party can have their evaluation on the election, but all should look into the general situation surrounding the process.
“Which foundation the evaluation has based, it is their choice. But the general mechanism is that the evaluation must start from registration until solving complaints regarding the election,” he said.