Flickering dreams of democracy

Cambodia is set to open two weeks of campaigning for local Commune Council elections on June 5. Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged authorities to remain neutral during the race, but politicians are wary after months of violence and harassment directed against aspiring candidates from parties other than the strongman’s Cambodian People’s Party. Cambodians also recall the previous local elections in 2017, where a strong showing by the main opposition party prompted Hun Sen, who has ruled the country since 1985, to ban the party and arrest its leader, a move that allowed his party to sweep all seats in parliamentary voting the following year.

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