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‘Free and Fair’ Criteria Elude Elections: Monitor

  • Kong Sothanarith
  • VOA Khmer

Koul Panha, left, the executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, told “Hello VOA” that the country has continued to struggle since it’s first election, in 1993.

Koul Panha, left, the executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, told “Hello VOA” that the country has continued to struggle since it’s first election, in 1993.

Cambodia’s election process has failed to live up to international standards of “free and fair,” a leading monitor said Monday.

Koul Panha, the executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, told “Hello VOA” that the country has continued to struggle since it’s first election, in 1993, with voter intimidation, an uneven playing field for non-ruling party candidates and other problems.

“There are so many irregularities and so much fear,” said Koul Panha, who is to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award in the Philippines later this month.

Each election cycle has also seen a decrease in the debate of “political issues,” he said.

In the interim, “state property has been used for the purposes of the [ruling Cambodian People’s Party], which affects fair elections,” he said. “And the state employees and armed forces are not neutral enough.”

Cambodia is preparing for local commune elections in 2012 and national parliamentary elections the following year.

Koul Panha said he planned to strengthen his organization’s observation of the elections, “and especially have a close look at the use of state property and the challenge of media access,” he said.

Opposition and other minority parties have long complained that the CPP uses state media and other broadcasts to further its political agenda, devoting hours to speeches by Prime Minister Hun Sen and showcasing CPP officials inaugurating projects like bridges, roads and schools.

Koul Panha also said the voter demographic is changing, with as many as a million new voters eligible this election season.

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