Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday challenged former opposition members criticising the election as rigged for the ruling CPP to do so again after accepting that they will die if wrong.
Speaking to athletes at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said that opposition members should swear to be struck by lightning if the voter turnout rate was inflated by the National Election Committee.
“Do you dare to swear?” he said, referring to former opposition leader Sam Rainsy. “I want to send message: Do you dare to swear to be struck to death by lightning or all kinds of deaths after you allege that the people were intimidated or coerced?”
Preliminary NEC results show a voter turnout rate of 82.89 percent, with the CPP securing 76.78 percent of votes nationwide, or about 4.8 million of the more than 6.9 ballots cast.
Mr Rainsy, the exiled former opposition leader, has criticised the NEC, claiming that it exaggerated the turnout rate and also reported a lower rate of invalid ballots.
But according to the NEC, the number of invalid ballooned to nearly 600,000 compared to roughly 100,000 in the 2013 election when voter turnout was about 69 percent.
“Voters who were forced by the authorities to participate in the poll against their will just crossed out the names of the 20 parties on the ballot paper to make it null and void,” Mr Rainsy said earlier on Facebook. “If you choose not to swear, it does not mean you recognise the turnout that was reported.”
Mr Rainsy added in a Facebook post yesterday that he would take the oath offered by Mr Hun Sen only after an election recount.
“For the 2018 election results, I am pleased to answer like I did in 2013 too — recount first and swear later,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Mr Hun Sen should not waste time squabbling with Mr Rainsy any longer.
“He should get on with the business of government and devote all his time to it, which is actually his mandate,” he said.
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath said that he does not believe it is necessary to swear to death in order to criticise the election, and added that Mr Rainsy’s comments are a distraction impeding the nation for progressing.
“The more important thing is whether the election reflected the will of the people who turned out to vote without coercion,” Mr Chanrath said.
“If they [Mr Hun Sen and Mr Rainsy] keep fighting each other, we will lose our reputation on the international stage because it shows we don’t have unity,” he added.