Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary election system. Since 1993, general elections take place every five years. The National Assembly comprises of 123 seats. The country is ruled by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is known for his authoritarian leadership style.
The last general elections took place in July 2013. For the first time a change in government seemed to be in reach. Following a merger of the two biggest opposition parties, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP), the newly founded Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was backed by wide public support. According to the National Election Commission (NEC), the CPP won 68 seats and therewith retained power; however, with its worst election
result since 1993. The CNRP won 55 seats but refused to accept the results and take up their seats in parliament, arguing that the elections were not free and fair. The allegations referred to reports of voter intimidation, inaccuracy of the electoral roll, partisanship of the NEC in favour of the ruling party and unequal access to state media for opposition parties. Many complained that the ink to mark voters was not indelible which could have allowed for double-voting. The CPP refused all demands of the opposition to establish an independent commission to investigate flaws in the electoral process.
The elections were followed by nationwide protests by CNRP supporters and CPP-critics which often were met with violence by police and security guards. At least one person died.
In July 2014, eight key opposition figures were jailed. They were accused of stirring political unrest. Shortly after, following an almost year-long boycott of the election result, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen eventually entered dialogue to overcome the political gridlock. The jailed opposition leaders were released and Hun Sen promised a more balanced distribution of power between ruling party and opposition. The opposition has now taken their seats in parliament.