by Wang Qibing, Nguon Sovan
PHNOM PENH, July 27 (Xinhua) -- Despite rising popularity, the opposition party will be definitely unable to defeat the ruling party of veteran Prime Minister Hun Sen in the fifth parliamentary elections on Sunday, Cambodian experts said.
Hun Sen, 61, has been in power for 28 years and vowed to rule the country for at least another decade.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) led by recently-returned Sam Rainsy has seen a remarkable rise in popularity, particularly among youth, said Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.
"The opposition is gaining more popularity due to its policy on the core concerns of Cambodian people," he told Xinhua.
The CNRP has promised to increase the income of workers, farmers, police, the armed forces, civil servants and the elderly if it wins the elections.
According to its political platform, the party promises to offer 10 U.S. dollars a month to Cambodians aged over 65, raise minimum monthly wage to 150 U.S. dollars, reduce the prices of gasoline, utilities and fertilizer and provide free healthcare services to the poor.
It also promises to eradicate rampant corruption, create more jobs for the youth, and eliminate land grabbing, forced eviction and illegal logging.
The CNRP was formed in September 2012 by merging two opposition parties -- the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, which won 26 seats and 3 seats respectively in the 123-seat National Assembly in the 2008 elections.
"Despite soaring popularity, the CNRP will not threaten the predominance of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen," said Vannarith. "The CPP will most likely win the elections with an absolute majority due to its financial resources and long-standing relationship with the public especially in the rural areas."
However, he warned that the CPP, which owns 90 seats, may risk losing its dominate in parliament if it did not live up to the political and economic reforms that it promised during the campaign.
Sok Touch, deputy director general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia's International Relations Institute, agreed that the main opposition party has seen a noticeable increase in popularity due to merger and youth's political awareness.
"However, it is impossible for the opposition party to beat the ruling CPP in Sunday's polls," he told Xinhua. "The ruling party has held power for more than three decades, in addition, it has strong financial resources and organizational structures with dominant access to mass media."
Hun Sen himself expected his party to win at least two-thirds majority in the parliament.
"I do believe that the CPP will be able to maintain the parliamentary seats -- no less than two-thirds in the upcoming elections," he said in a public speech in March.
Senior lawmaker and CPP central committee member Cheam Yeap said the party currently has 5.7 million members.
"We have constructed this country for 34 years after the fall of the Democratic Kampuchea and gained a landslide support from the people," he told Xinhua.
Eight political parties will contest Sunday's parliamentary polls with about 9.67 million eligible voters.