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Cambodia: 1998

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1998: Archaeology: Radar Reveals Hidden Ruins in Cambodia
1998: Cambodia: Hun Sen Declares Election Victory
1998: Pol Pot Dies at 73
1998: Coalition Government

Hun Sen Declares Election Victory

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.


1998: Cambodia: Hun Sen Declares Election Victory

Cambodian leader Hun Sen was declared the winner of general elections on August 5, 1998, after the National Election Committee (NEC) determined that his ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) won a slight majority of seats in the National Assembly.

The elections, held in July 1998, gave the CPP 64 seats in the 122-seat assembly, far short of the two-thirds needed to confirm a new government. The royalist FUNCINPEC Party, led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, won 43 seats, and the Sam Rainsy Party won 15 seats. Voter turnout was estimated at above 90 percent.

Although the elections were declared fair by international observers, opposition leaders bitterly charged that widespread voting fraud and a climate of fear and violence influenced the outcome. They demanded an investigation.

Hun Sen's official title going into the elections was second prime minister, a title he retained on paper despite his violent ouster of Ranariddh as first prime minister in July 1997. After the bloody takeover, the United Nations (UN) refused to seat Cambodia, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional alliance, postponed Cambodia's admission. Many countries cut off international assistance to Cambodia. Observers said that Hun Sen staged the elections to win back legitimacy for his government.

In the wake of the CPP's declared victory, both Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, a former Cambodian finance minister and government critic, refused Hun Sen's offers to join a coalition government. Both leaders have also threatened to boycott the assembly when it meets in September 1998, a move that would block the ratification of a new government.

On August 30 Ranariddh and Rainsy led an estimated 15,000 protesters on a march through Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, calling on Hun Sen to relinquish power. During the march, Ranariddh and Rainsy demanded that Hun Sen change the formula used by the NEC to determine the number of seats allocated to each party, a demand that would deprive the CPP of its slim majority.

Hun Sen defended the elections as free, fair, and nonviolent, and appealed to Cambodia's popular King Norodom Sihanouk, Ranariddh's father, for help. On August 31 Sihanouk, who currently resides in the northern Cambodian city of Siem Reap, urged the rival leaders to work toward resolving the political stalemate.

Within hours of Sihanouk's overture, the Constitutional Council, Cambodia's highest appeals court, formally dismissed opposition complaints about the election. Opposition leaders rejected the ruling, saying it was engineered by pro-CPP supporters on the court.

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