0343 GMT March 20, 2019
On Friday, hundreds of thousands of the premier’s supporters gathered Samdech Hun Sen Boulevard on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in a campaign rally organized by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Many demonstrators were dressed in shirts, hats and carrying flags bearing the CPP emblem.
Hun Sen, 64, attended the gathering in person, the first such move in 24 years.
Addressing the crowd, he reminded the nation about the stability he has brought to Cambodia since the end of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.
“Which party brought about peace?” asked the prime minister.
“If the CPP had not toppled Pol Pot, would Pol Pot have given up power and stopped killing us?” he asked in a rhetorical question, referring to the Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot who oversaw the massacre of about two million Cambodians.
Hun Sen, himself had been a Khmer Rouge commander who later defected and joined the Vietnam-backed government that ousted the cruel regime.
Sunday’s vote in more than 1,600 communes -- village clusters -- comes after months of political tensions in the country. The commune elections are seen as a barometer for the national elections in July 2018.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) opposition accuses Hun Sen, who has served as Prime Minister since 1985, of crushing dissent after his party nearly lost in the 2013 elections.
The party nearly unseated the premier in a 2013 poll and claims it only lost due to voter fraud.
In the post-election violence, one person was killed and others injured during clashes in Cambodia’s capital.
The CNRP, which staged its own rally on the other side of the capital on Friday, has gained ground in recent years.
At least 27 human rights defenders and political activists belonging to the CNRP have been imprisoned since 2013, according a recent Amnesty International report.