WASHINGTON DC - Local election monitors in Cambodia say they too are worried about the legitimacy of the 2013 national elections, following sharp criticism by the UN’s special envoy for human rights.
The envoy, Surya Subedi, said in a statement this week the National Election Committee must be reformed and the opposition allowed a chance to fairly contest the elections if they are to be considered legitimate.
Puthea Hang, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said civic groups in the country want similar reforms, but that many of them are opposed by the ruling party.
The NEC is often accused of political bias toward the Cambodian People’s Party and has been criticized for complicated voter registration and other administrative processes that make it difficult for some people to vote and makes it easy for local officials of the ruling party to influence the vote in the party’s favor.
Puthea Hang’s concerns echo those of Subedi, who completed a trip to Cambodia this year and said this week the upcoming election risks further eroding the trust of Cambodians in the democratic process. His statements were strongly objected to by government officials.
However, Puthea Hang said Subedi’s report was aimed at improving Cambodia’s election process. Civil society wants improved elections that are free and fair and credible, he said.
“Cambodia passed through the wars of many regimes,” he said. “The outcome was mutual fighting and the deaths of people from every faction. So what is acceptable in Cambodia is for all the parties to grab their rights and roles and lead the country through peaceful means, through an election.”