Cambodian PM to step down after 4 decades

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, said yesterday he will resign and hand power to his eldest son after almost four decades of hardline rule.

The former Khmer Rouge cadre has run the kingdom since 1985, eliminating all opposition to his power, with rival parties banned, challengers forced to flee and freedom of expression stifled.

His Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won a landslide victory in an election on Sunday with no meaningful opposition, taking 82 percent of the vote, paving the way for a dynastic succession to his eldest son that some critics have compared to North Korea.

“I would like to ask for understanding from the people as I announce that I will not continue as prime minister,” the 70-year-old said in a special broadcast on state television.

Election authorities disqualified the only serious challenger, the Candlelight Party, on a technicality in advance of the election, and the CPP is expected to win all but five lower house seats.

The government hailed the 84.6 percent voter turnout as evidence of the country’s “democratic maturity” but Western powers, including the United States and the European Union, condemned the poll as neither free nor fair.

The UN’s human rights chief Volker Turk added his own criticism yesterday, saying opposition parties and media had faced “restrictions and reprisals” aimed at hindering free elections.

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