Donors Should Press for Genuine Dispute Resolution Process
(New York) – The Cambodian government-controlled National Election Committee (NEC) has failed to address credible allegations of voter fraud and other irregularities or systematic unfairness in the election process.
The NEC announced official election results on September 8, 2013. The NEC results give the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) 68 seats and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), led by Sam Rainsy, 55 seats. Earlier the ruling party-dominated Constitutional Council dismissed all meaningful complaints about the conduct of the July 28 election.
“The National Election Committee has doused even the slimmest hope that thousands of electoral irregularities would be investigated in a serious and impartial manner,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The ruling party controlled every aspect of the electoral process and deprived the people of Cambodia of a free and fair election.”
Among the problems documented with the electoral process were:
• Unequal media access for opposition parties;
• Pro-CPP bias within the national and local electoral apparatus;
• Lack of an independent and impartial dispute resolution mechanism;
• Manipulation of voter rolls to allow “ghost” voters and exclude opposition voters;
• Campaigning by senior security forces officers for the CPP, leading to intimidation of voters; and
• Failure of the NEC and Constitutional Council to seriously or independently investigate credible complaints of election irregularities.
The CPP and its direct predecessors have dominated Cambodian politics since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, despite losing United Nations-administered elections in 1993. Independent domestic and international election observers concluded that the 1998, 2003, and 2008 elections lacked credibility. Hun Sen has held the position of prime minister for 28 years.
Human Rights Watch said that Cambodia’s donors and the United Nations should support calls from Cambodian election observation organizations and civil society groups for an independent and impartial investigation into the entire electoral process. Donors should refrain from making any statements suggesting that the election results are acceptable or final.
“Bias and unfairness in the electoral system, structural problems, and allegations of widespread irregularities may have changed the result of a close election,” Adams said. “Unless there is an independent investigation that addresses legitimate concerns, we will never know who the people of Cambodia voted to lead the next government, casting a serious shadow over the legitimacy of any government that the CPP forms. Donors should insist on such an investigation or they will once again be complicit in creating the illusion of democracy in Cambodia.”