Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KPP joins call to boycott but NEC, CPP brush off legitimacy concerns, hailing number of parties

KPP joins call to boycott but NEC, CPP brush off legitimacy concerns, hailing number of parties

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sourn Serey Rotha, then-president of the Khmer Power Party, speaks at a debate in Phnom Penh in 2017. Heng Chivoan

KPP joins call to boycott but NEC, CPP brush off legitimacy concerns, hailing number of parties

Responding to the National Election Committee’s official announcement that 20 political parties will be on the ballot for the July 29 national elections, the CNRP and Khmer Power Party – both of which have former leaders in jail – claimed they wouldn’t recognise the poll as legitimate. This was dismissed, however, by both the NEC and the ruling CPP.

After the tally was announced, officials from the NEC and CPP hailed the number as evidence of the Kingdom’s thriving multiparty democracy.

The CNRP, which was dissolved following the arrest of leader Kem Sokha on “treason” charges last year, countered by saying the government and the NEC were “taking away [citizen’s] options” by not allowing them to compete.

Strengthening their call for a boycott, the CNRP released a statement saying: “Not going to vote means you support the CNRP in your heart, and want it to lead the country to positive changes.”

The former opposition party, which has been operating abroad, also asked the international community to “not give recognition” to the July elections, arguing they will be “improper and illegitimate”, quoting from the joint statement made by 45 member countries of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March. The statement also called on Japan to pull its funding for the NEC.

Serey Ratha, the former leader of the Khmer Power Party, declared that the party would not be taking part in the election and that it will not “recognise the result”.

Ratha was sentenced to five years in jail in August last year for allegedly inciting soldiers to disobey orders in a Facebook post. His sentiments, however, were echoed by the party’s new leader in a KPP statement.

Hang Puthea, the NEC spokesperson, dismissed both the CNRP’s and KPP’s statements, calling them an attempt to “destroy democracy in the country” and characterising them as “a backward move”.

“I believe their calls will not be effective because the social current goes along with the law . . . There will be national and international observers [monitoring the vote], so there will not be any obstacle.”

Sok Eysan, CPP spokesperson, however, said the CNRP was already “dead” and thus had no right to participate in future elections.

“Even when they were still alive and active in politics, they never recognised the result of the elections,” he said. “Now, they are dead . . . They are jealous so they keep attacking to make themselves look good.”

Eysan added that democracy in Cambodia is developing smoothly, as other parties “which do not act against the law” are operating and participating as usual. He also criticised the CNRP for its calls to the international community to cut aid to Cambodia.

“It is not effective at all since they do not have any status . . . Now, they are homeless beggars, bowing their head in almost every country in the world.

“There is no alternative apart from asking the people to fulfil their obligation in order to implement their political and citizen rights, to show their willingness in selecting a country leader in accordance with democratic principles.”

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, expressed scepticism over the legitimacy of many of the parties that registered.

“Everyone knows how easy it is to buy political support in Cambodia since the CPP mastered this process long ago. PM Hun Sen thinks that if the CPP logo is surrounded by many others on the ballot this means he’s expanded democracy when he’s done precisely the opposite with his unjust dissolution of the CNRP,” he said via emailAs to the question of whether Japan would pull funds they were providing for the NEC, he showed doubt.

“The problem with Japan’s support for this hopelessly compromised election is that Tokyo is prepared to sacrifice Cambodian human rights and democracy in order to win it’s quasi-Cold War battle with China for influence in the region.”

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