Will the Cambodian Elections Be Open?
By LENG Sovady
Cambodian Minister Asks Vietnam 'To Assist' in Maintaining Security in Election
Cambodia thanks Vietnam for military assistance
Will the general elections on July 27, 2008, for the fourth term of office be fair ? The study of the election legislation and recent events prove people’s choice will be under diverse pressures and intimidations as well as election frauds.
On the past 25th of March, the minister of Defence of the Royal government led by Mr Hun Sen, Mr Tea Banh visited the president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr Nguyen Minh Triet. On this occasion, Mr Tea Banh warmly thanked Vietnam for its military support to drive Pol Pot out in 1979. And he asked for a Vietnamese military support to insure law and order during the elections.
The military support in 1979 turned into the occupation of Cambodia, which became Vietnam’s slave as a compensation for the spending. The occupying army looted the rest of the national wealth after Pol Pot’s rule and notably, furniture, precious stones, factories, doors, windows, all things transportable and so on…
And Vietnam uselessly imposed on the Cambodian people the “K5” policy for its military strategy, which caused 200,000 casualties and family disorganizations.
The treaty of Paris signed on October 23, 1991 and the election results in May 1993 under the aegis of UN were needed to get rid of this sturdy military support so praised by Mr Tea Banh.
He certainly knows all those ploys because he is a minister. His approach is disingenuous during the election period, and, moreover, the PPC, this minister’s party, is spreading the rumour that if the elections were lost for him, risks of civil war would be run. As the Cambodians are traumatized by the war, they could change their choice.
For the elections in 2003, Phnom Penh had threatened to use armed forces if protests were uttered like in 1998 against election fraud. This time, the authority is using other means like threatening with the occupation by Vietnamese forces, which reminds the Cambodians of the dark times from 1979 and 1991.
The general elections are organized by the National Election Committee (NEC) nominated by the council of ministers after the Home minister’s advice, according to the new article 13 of the election laws promulgated on December 26, 1997 and renewed on February 7, 2007 during the time when the PPC had absolute power after the collapse of FUNCIPEC following the coup on July 6, 1997. And then, this committee will nominate the local election commissions (new article 18). Eventually, after this commission’s proposition, the national election committee will nominate the election commission in the polling station, composed of a president, a vice-president, a secretary and two members (new article 22).
According to these laws, the election organisms should be neutral. But how could we believe in the neutrality of such organisms nominated by the authority?
This is a difference with the French practice. The political parties that participate in the elections, have only the right to send delegates as observers to the polling station (new article 26) and have not the right to take part in the election process. In France, the political parties may send assessors to participate in the election process from the opening time of the polling station onward and check the registers and electors’ identity.
If the Cambodian election legislation is applied, the election commission in the polling station could easily fraud if they were determined to do it because the party delegates have not the right to check the registers and the electors’ identity.
On these reports, protests in 1998 and 2003 were justified by the gaps in the legislation.
So, the national election committee should amend the present laws by enabling the political parties to send assessors for the voting process, so that the general elections should be really democratic. Otherwise, suspicion towards the committee’s neutrality and voting process transparency will persist.