25 May 2016
DERAILMENT OF THE ELECTION PROCESS IN CAMBODIA
Announcing dates for voting days for the commune and national elections scheduled for 2017 and 2018 respectively, is not enough to ensure that those elections would be credible and acceptable for the Cambodian people and the international community.
Worse, in light of the current political repression, such an announcement could be misleading in that it may divert attention from what the Hun Sen government has been actively doing over the last twelve months in order to manipulate those elections in a way to secure victory for the ruling CPP in spite of its fast declining popularity.
Taking full advantage of its control over the Judiciary, which it blatantly uses as a tool for political repression, the government gets an increasing number of its opponents and critics – including leaders and members of the civil society – arrested and jailed on fallacious charges.
Hun Sen’s ruling party is not only restricting freedom of expression in an unacceptable manner, it is also disrupting the political balance in the composition of the National Election Committee by imprisoning one of its top officials representing the civil society and preparing to prosecute an opposition-appointed key NEC member. By doing so the government is actually destroying the credibility of the newly formed NEC, thus jeopardising the whole election process.
Finally, the government and the ruling party must be reminded that, in any parliamentary democracy, any national election would be meaningless without the participation of the leader of the parliamentary opposition. As the president of the only opposition party represented in Parliament and because I am the most credible if not the only challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen, I have continuously been victim of political harassment and judicial persecution. Since November 2015, another series of politically motivated lawsuits leading to a jail sentence has forced me into temporary exile for the third time in my political life.
The current political repression – and with it the climate of fear and intimidation – must first be put to an end before anybody can talk about free and fair elections.