PHNOM PENH - Both the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party saw huge turnouts during campaigning on Friday, the last official day before Sunday’s national parliamentary elections.
Cambodian elections typically have a day of quiet before Election Day, which meant supporters took to the streets Friday, as candidates declared their intentions for governance.
The CPP had a major campaign push in Prey Veng province, in the east, where it won all 11 seats in the province in 2008. In the capital, where the Rescue Party has major support, thousands of supporters flooded the streets.
The election watchdog Comfrel said in a statement that political participation has increased among the populace this year, especially with last week’s return from exile of opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
The group noted a number of irregularities, however, including an apparent registration of voters that exceeded the population of those eligible, indicating fraud, and campaigning by civil servants, the armed forces and police on behalf of the ruling party.
In a statement Friday, Comfrel called on the National Election Committee to ensure that voters do not cast more than one ballot, to ensure that identification documents are authentic and to share information with election observers. The group called on election observers and political parties to file complaints if irregularities are noted during voting and the vote count and to remain at polling stations throughout the process. It also urged “neutrality at all times” from the armed forces.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement Friday that the elections had been “marred by systemic problems,” including unequal media access, official bias toward the ruling party, and the exclusion as a candidate of Sam Rainsy. That will prevent the elections from being free and fair, the group said.
“The entire process is biased in favor of the ruling party and against the opposition,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement. “What should result in the will of the people has been organized to result in the will of the Cambodian People’s Party.”
The UN’s special rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, also issued a statement on Friday, calling for free and fair elections and the “full respect for human rights” in the election process.
“In the remaining hours, I urge the people of Cambodia to refrain from violence and have due regard for the rights of other fellow citizens when exercising their own,” he said. “Every eligible voter must be given an equal opportunity to exercise his/her right to vote without intimidation, fear or pressure.”