០៩ ឧសភា ២០២៣ / 09 May 2023
សហគមន៍អន្តរជាតិ មិនត្រូវទទួលស្គាល់ការបោះឆ្នោត ដ៏អាក្រក់បំផុត នៅកម្ពុជា ខាងមុខនេះទេ ហើយក៏មិនត្រូវទទួលស្គាល់រដ្ឋាភិបាលថ្មី ដែលចេញមកពីការបោះឆ្នោតក្លែងក្លាយ បែបនេះទេ។
May 9, 2023
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST NOT ACCEPT CAMBODIA'S "ELECTION"
Hun Sen is presenting facade of democracy to preserve CPP power
By Sam Rainsy
In theory, the election to be held in Cambodia in July should involve the possible loss of power by authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled the country for 38 years.
Indeed, anything would be possible if the Cambodian people were really allowed to choose their own future in free, fair, honest and democratic elections. But for an honest vote to take place, there cannot be systematic manipulation and falsification by authorities seeking to hide or distort the public will.
Since 1975, Cambodia has only had one real, honest election. The 1993 vote was organized by the United Nations. under the Paris Peace Accords reached two years earlier and saw the spectacular defeat of Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
Hun Sen begrudgingly then shared power for a time before reestablishing unchallenged authority through a bloody coup d'état in 1997. All subsequent elections have been simulations designed to allow him to stay in power.
As well as physically eliminating real, potential and imagined opponents, Hun Sen in 1998 set up a new National Election Committee (NEC) under tight CPP control to organize public consultations and ensure risk-free victories for the party.
The first trick in the NEC's book is the manipulation of electoral lists to deprive voters suspected of not being CPP supporters of their rights and to mobilize in their place "ghost" voters to cast ballots for the ruling party.
In 2013, an audit by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute found that 11% of real Cambodian voters had been wrongly removed from the electoral lists, while 10% of the registered names were no more than phantoms. No serious steps have been taken to correct such irregularities, and the NDI was subsequently expelled from Cambodia.
Since 1998, the CPP has won 10 local and national elections without facing a real contest. The country's opaque and arbitrary electoral register allows the party to retain power indefinitely, while appearing to gain a mandate via the ballot box. At the same time, the party has used political, administrative, police, judicial and financial means to ensure its decisive position and crush any opposition party enjoying popular support.
The strength of popular opposition to the regime can be seen in the results achieved by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Set up in 2012 as Cambodia's first united democratic opposition, the CNRP officially received 44% of votes cast in the legislative election the following year despite facing the usual electoral manipulations.
Given the scale of electoral irregularities, my fellow CNRP leaders and I believed that the party would have won the election had it been honest, so we organized protests and refused to take up seats in the national assembly. The regime, shaken by the unrest, responded with bloody repression.
But the two sides reached a truce in 2014 after Hun Sen agreed to a constitutional amendment to ensure equal NEC representation for the country's two biggest parties, then the CPP and CNRP, and to allow the electoral lists to be cleaned up and reconstituted.
Hun Sen and I enjoyed a short honeymoon with the creation of a "culture of dialogue." This was a concept I learned from 1980s French politics. The idea is to put past differences aside, using dialogue based on mutual respect to overcome political divides and seek consensus for the greater public interest.
The detente with Hun Sen extended to my nomination as "leader of the parliamentary minority with the rank of prime minister," while Kem Sokha became first vice president of the national assembly.
But in April 2015, Hun Sen rejected my proposal to extend the culture of dialogue to other leading figures and activists in the CNRP and CPP. In the following months, prosecutors opened legal cases against me while I was traveling abroad and then my parliamentary immunity was annulled. Made-to-measure laws were adopted to completely remove me from the political scene.
I passed the leadership of the CNRP to Kem Sokha in February 2017 to protect the existence of our opposition party. That June, despite all the usual irregularities, the CNRP managed to officially win 44% of the votes in local-level elections.
Hun Sen's response was to have Kem Sokha arrested, to set aside the previously agreed NEC reforms and then to simply dissolve the CNRP. In its absence, the CPP party won every seat in the 2018 national assembly election.
The July 23 election is shaping up along the usual lines. The Candlelight Party, which captured 22% of the vote in local-level elections last year, was prevented from registering this time until the last minute and has faced heavy harassment.
There will not be any surprises when the votes are counted. The presence of a small symbolic opposition allows Hun Sen to present a facade of democracy to dampen international criticism and provides a not-too-dangerous channel for the public to express their dissatisfaction and desire for change without affecting the ultimate outcome.
Unlike neighboring Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar, Cambodia has not had an independent electoral commission in the eyes of its democratic opposition since 1993. The opposition has denounced large-scale irregularities following each subsequent election and organized mass protests that have been violently crushed by the Hun Sen regime.
International observers who intend to monitor the next election should be under no illusion that there is in fact anything to monitor. They can achieve nothing beyond lending legitimacy to an electoral farce that at best distorts the popular will, and at worst reverses it. This is the worst service that can be offered to the Cambodian people.
Caption of second photo in the article:
Ballot counting for Cambodia's 2018 election: Hun Sen's ruling CPP won every national assembly seat in the absence of the CNRP, which was dissolved by the Supreme Court prior to the election. © Reuters