Phnom Penh: Ruling party lawmakers in Cambodia today officially extended Hun Sen`s rule for another five years, renaming the longtime strongman prime minister of the Southeast Asian nation in a parliamentary vote boycotted by the opposition.
The vote was considered a formality, and Hun Sen who has ruled virtually unchallenged for nearly three decades will take the oath of office in front of King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace later today.
The opposition yesterday stayed away from parliament`s opening session and boycotted the legislature again today over allegations the country`s disputed July ballot was marred by fraud.
Confident as he spoke before the half-empty assembly, Hun Sen declared his re-election "a historic day for Cambodia." He also dismissed the allegations of cheating, calling the vote a "free, fair, just and transparent election."
Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy have talked several times this month in an effort to resolve the political deadlock. Hun Sen today told reporters he was ready to talk again but only if opposition lawmakers take their seats in parliament.
"Before resuming negotiations, you have to first take an oath," Hun Sen said in comments directed at the opposition. He said the ruling party was considering offering several senior posts to the opposition, including vice president of the legislature and that the government "is determined to undertake thorough reforms in all fields."
Today`s parliamentary vote saw all 68 ruling party lawmakers rename Hun Sen to his post. All 55 seats held by the opposition were empty.
Hun Sen`s Cambodian People`s Party took a surprise hit in the July election, seeing its majority weaken while the opposition secured 55 seats, up from the 29 it had previously held.
The result emboldened the opposition, which has staged several protests and pushed unsuccessfully for an independent probe of election irregularities.
None of it derailed Hun Sen`s track to stay in power, and analysts say the opposition has few options left.
"This is a huge wake-up call (for Hun Sen`s government) ... And now they all acknowledge that they all need to reform," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
"But the question is, are they able to reform?" Cambodia historian David Chandler, emeritus professor of history at Australia`s Monash University, said the opposition could resume protests "take to the streets, but that`s very dangerous" because of the threat of bloodshed.