The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Hun Sen is poised to sweep a Senate election at the weekend, helping to consolidate the prime minister’s rule of more than 30 years amid a crackdown on the opposition. Sunday’s election for 58 members of the 62-strong Senate will see 123 members of parliament and 11,572 commune councilors vote at 33 polling stations across Cambodia. Two Senate members each are appointed by the king and the National Assembly. But rights groups and opposition politicians say the Senate vote is a farce that shows Hun Sen, who faces a national election in July, is not committed to multi-party democracy. Almost half of the commune councilors have been stripped of their right to vote in Sunday’s election after their opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by a court last November at the request of Hun Sen’s government.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Exiled Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy on Wednesday raised the prospect of violence if this year’s general election is not postponed, prompting a government accusation of a threat to the state. Cambodian politics has been in turmoil since the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) last year, following the arrest of its leader, Kem Sokha, on treason charges he says were politically motivated. Sam Rainsy, a former CNRP leader now living in exile in France, called for a postponement of the July election, at which Prime Minister Hun Sen is now expected to easily extend his 33 years in power.
China will donate ballot boxes and voting booths for Cambodia’s 2018 election, an official said Thursday, weeks after Western democracies pulled their support in protest over a crackdown on opposition politicians. The US and the European Union withdrew their backing after a Phnom Penh court dissolved the main opposition party in November — a move they said stripped next year’s election of any legitimacy. The ruling all but guarantees a victory for premier Hun Sen, an authoritarian leader who has been methodically sweeping out rivals as he looks to extend his 32-year run in office. Western powers and rights groups have warned that the unprecedented crackdown could spell the death of democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
The European Union has suspended funding for Cambodia’s 2018 general election because the vote cannot be credible after the dissolution of the main opposition party, according to a letter sent to the national election committee on Tuesday. The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the country’s highest court last month at the request of the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen after the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha for alleged treason. “An electoral process from which the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded cannot be seen as legitimate,” read the Dec. 12 letter reviewed by Reuters.
Cambodia’s parliament on Monday amended the law to ban people from associating with anyone convicted of a criminal offense, a move the opposition says aims to hobble rivals of Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of a general election next year. Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) voted to change the election law to ban political parties from engaging with such individuals, who also face bans on participating in politics through images, audio recordings and writing. Political parties which violate the law face a five-year suspension or could be dissolved. The amendment effectively bans former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile in France to avoid arrest in a number of convictions, from campaigning from abroad for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Independent election observers praised Sunday’s running of the nationwide commune elections as largely smooth and peaceful, even while noting a raft of problems, including unauthorized officials at polling sites, intimidated observers and soldiers being brought to vote at some polling stations by the truckload. Dubbed the “Situation Room,” the coalition of NGOs that teamed up to send some 14,000 observers across the country described the voting as “smooth, safe and peaceful” but marred by “some minor irregularities.” Recounting one of the day’s most flagrant breaches, Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said 12 observers across two communes in Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district were pressured into abandoning their duties by local authorities.
Cambodia’s opposition made significant gains in local elections against the ruling party of authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday, according to the first results. The election for more than 1,600 communes would not mean a major shift in power, but could be a springboard for next year’s general election, in which Hun Sen aims to extend more than three decades in power in the Southeast Asian country. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won 11 out of the first 80 communes for which results were declared. In the last local election, the ruling Cambodia National Rescue Party won 97 percent against a divided opposition.
To vote or not to vote. For many of Cambodia’s saffron-robed Buddhist monks, it’s a difficult question. On one hand, activism among monks has a long tradition, from helping create a strong Khmer national identity during colonial rule, to leading the drive for independence in the 20th century, to protesting with the urban and rural poor in their land rights battles. On the other hand, as one of Cambodia’s top monks, Tep Vong has repeatedly said that monks should be a neutral force in an effort to protect the national religion’s hallowed image. At Wat Langka, one of Phnom Penh’s oldest pagodas, near Independence Monument, a respected veteran monk said he had never voted in his birth country.
Transparency International has pledged a rapid assessment of potential irregularities in Sunday’s commune elections by sending 1,100 observers across Cambodia—including, if needed, by boat and helicopter. At a news conference in Phnom Penh on Monday, Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said USAID had donated nearly $200,000 to fund the Election Day operations, in which a sample of 410 polling stations out of 22,148 would be observed. The plan was to produce a report more quickly than other organizations carrying out comprehensive assessments, Mr. Kol said.
Rectifying one of the greatest sources of outrage and discontent surrounding previous elections, the voter list compiled for upcoming commune elections has passed an audit with flying colors, though commentators remain skeptical as to whether the country will actually witness free and fair elections on June 4. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) on Tuesday published its full report on the completely remade voter list, following the NGO coalition’s release of a summary at a news conference last week. “This audit found that there are significant improvements on the quality of the 2016 voter list in its completeness, currency, and accuracy compared with the previous voter list,” Comfrel’s report says.