By Prak Chan Thul
PHNOMPENH (Reuters) – Cambodia’s lawmakers on Thursday voted in a new parliamentary leadership and government, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party, after a July general election that was derided internationally because it was largely uncontested.
Hun Sen, 66, said his government would serve “the nation and the people” after the vote extended his 33-year rule by five more years. The few changes he made to his cabinet highlight his family’s growing political influence.
His son, Hun Manet, became joint chief of staff, while his youngest son Hun Many chairs the parliamentary commission on youth and sport. The National Assembly president, Heng Sarin, continues in his post.
Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won all 125 parliamentary seats in the vote, which the United Nations and some Western countries have said was flawed because of the lack of a credible opposition, among other factors.
The main Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year and 118 of its members banned from politics for five years, has called the July election a farce.
“The election was illegitimate, so the National Assembly and government is also illegitimate,” Kem Monovithya, the daughter of its leader Kem Sokha, who was jailed on treason charges last September, and remains in pre-trial detention, told Reuters.
“Unless there is a reversal of course, Cambodia is heading into isolation.”
With his grip on power assured, Hun Sen has begun to relax a campaign against critics and opponents kicked off in the days before the election.
Fourteen government critics were freed from jail last month in a move some see as aimed at appeasing foreign criticism of the election.
(Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez)