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Election Officials Urged to Remain ‘Neutral’ Amid Criticism


NEC organized a workshop explaining the dissemination of electoral processes at the cabinet office of the NEC, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 17, 2018. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Large numbers of CNRP voters are expected to boycott the election, a move the government has equated with treason.

Cambodian election officials have been urged to remain “neutral” ahead of the July vote following criticism of the electoral process.

The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights to Cambodia has said that the election will not be fair without the participation of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the main opposition party that was banned in the country last year.

Sik Bunhok, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party-appointed chairman of the National Election Committee (NEC), said in a statement last week that elected officials should work together “like bees”.

Under a new coordination drive by the NEC, officials would be expected to work together to counter “propaganda” that questioned the legitimacy of the election.

Campaigning in the run-up to the July 29 general election will begin on July 7, the NEC added.

Political commentators have also expressed deep reservations over the direction of the democratic process in Cambodia since the CPP-aligned Supreme Court ordered the CNRP dissolved in November.

Lao Monghay, a veteran political analyst, told a forum on Friday that the forthcoming election would be “useless” and “meaningless” without the participation of the CNRP, which before its dissolution held about 45 percent of parliamentary seats.

“In the constitution, power is in the hands of the people ... but the people are being oppressed, meaning there are no rights and freedoms to express opinions,” he said.

Officials have dismissed such criticism, saying that the CNRP was banned because of evidence of an alleged plot to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen, although it has yet to produce any evidence to back up the claim.

Large numbers of CNRP voters are expected to boycott the election, a move the government has equated with treason.

Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman, said whether the election was considered “meaningless” or not, the body would carry out its duties.

“The law requires the people to vote,” he said.

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