Chinese Foreign Minister Endorses CPP Election Win

Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi on Wednesday endorsed the CPP’s claim of victory in the July 28 national election, following talks with both Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Phnom Penh, officials said.

Preliminary results from the National Election Committee and the CPP give the party a 68-to-55-seat victory, representing Mr. Hun Sen’s biggest drop in support since U.N.-backed elections began in 1993.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Mr. Hun Sen's office building in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, where Mr. Wang congratulated the ruling CPP on winning last month's national election. (Reuters)
Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Mr. Hun Sen’s office building in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, where Mr. Wang congratulated the ruling CPP on winning last month’s national election. (Reuters)

But the opposition CNRP, which has alleged massive irregularities at the polls, has challenged the result and both the U.S. and the European Union have called for an independent investigation to be conducted into the election before they en­dorse the results.

After meeting with Mr. Hun Sen for two hours, Mr. Wang met with Mr. Namhong briefly, before the pair delivered a joint press briefing—in which reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

“In this election, the Cambodian People’s Party as the ruling party won a majority of parliamentary seats, and the leaders of China wrote a letter to congratulate the leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party. Today, I blessed and congratulated Samdech Techo [Hun Sen],” Mr. Wang said.

Mr. Wang also called for a swift resolution to Cambodia’s political situation, which has seen a security buildup in Phnom Penh as the CNRP says it will call mass demonstrations if its complaints over election results are not properly addressed.

“China is a good friend of Cam­bodia. We hope that the Cambodian parties will negotiate and discuss in peace, in order to form a new Parliament and government as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr. Wang is the first top diplomat from a foreign state to visit Cam­bodia since the disputed vote and his visit also comes after Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang wrote a letter of congratulations to Mr. Hun Sen in the aftermath of the election.

Following talks between Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Wang on Wednesday at the prime minister’s office, Prak Sokhon, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, told reporters that the two discussed yet more “strengthening of ties” between the two countries.

“The Chinese leader congratulated the Cambodian People’s Party on winning the election and getting a majority in Parliament,” Mr. Sokhon said.

Mr. Wang, who is in Cambodia by invitation of Mr. Namhong, also praised Mr. Hun Sen’s leadership in bolstering relations between Cambodia and China, according to Mr. Sokhon.

“Our countries are good friends, good neighbors, and under the leadership of both countries, we have improved the relationship and strengthened our trust and support in each other,” Mr. Sokhon said.

Asked whether the two had discussed Cambodia’s present political deadlock, Mr. Sokhon said Mr. Wang noted progress toward a peaceful solution.

“It is an internal issue for Cambodia, I believe that China has no intention to give recommendations to Cambodia on how to find a resolution itself,” he said. “They support [Cambodia], that is enough of a message.”

Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said China’s overt display of support for the ruling party was designed to bolster the embattled CPP after it lost seats in the election.

“The presence and the talks and everything seem to give to our prime minister and his party more confidence,” he said.

“After the election, not many foreign governments have come out in support,” he said. “At least they have a big power,” he added, referring to China.

The U.S. has been joined by the E.U. and Australia in calling for a transparent and credible investigation into claims of election fraud.

Cambodia appeared to respond, postponing some military assistance programs with both the U.S. and Australia, although officials insist that relations are normal.

In a contrast of styles, China immediately after the election delivered a donation of guns and bullets to Cambodia’s police and signed off on yet more money, following hundreds of millions of dollars of soft loans, grants and military aid in recent years. On August 11, the Chinese ambassador agreed to a $121 million loan to pay for an irrigation project and an electricity transmission line.

Mr. Mong Hay said Mr. Wang’s visit was a signal that the CPP can rely on Chinese support, since Cambodia has become an important regional ally for China, just as the U.S. is attempting a “pivot” to Asia in the realms of security and business.

“It is very much in the context of geopolitics in the region. The Americans have put a lot of pressure on the prime minister and the party,” he said.

Additionally, Cambodia’s voters showing displeasure with a long-ruling party might spark concern closer to home for the Chinese Communist Party, which presides over a one-party state, he said.

“It’s a democracy oil drop on the Asian paper. It’s going to spread,” he said.

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