In 2018, ever-incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen scored a landslide victory in the Cambodian general elections. Three factors in particular explain this outcome. First, the elimination of the main opposition party, whose strategy of a peaceful election boycott failed. Second, favorable economic conditions and government handouts of spoils to constituencies that traditionally supported the opposition. Third, the weak leverage of the United States and the EU, and the Hun Sen regime’s strong links with China.
After local elections in 2017, the Cambodian People’s Party intensified its attacks on free media, NGOs, and the Cambodian National Rescue Party. Meanwhile, stronger links to China and waning Western leverage are enabling Prime Minister Hun Sen to transform the post-1993 multiparty system into a patrimonial dictatorship. Cambodia enjoyed strong economic growth but saw little improvement in its weak institutional framework, in social justice, or in economic competitiveness.