In the absence of official results from Sunday’s election and the opposition still contesting the CPP’s victory, there have been no official letters endorsing the vote from the likes of the U.S. and the European Union.
But that has not stopped delegations from China and Hungary, invited to observe the election by the National Election Committee (NEC), from releasing statements Tuesday applauding the conduct of the vote.
Both China and Hungary determined that the elections were free, fair and transparent, while a South Korean assessment also released Tuesday and compiled by members of its National Assembly, held back from saying so and offered recommendations that would enable the NEC to ensure that future elections are “freer and fairer.”
“Cambodian politics had been on the right path toward democracy” and observers “agreed that the election process in 2013 was far more stable and peaceful than those in previous elections,” the South Korean statement says.
It also commended the campaigns for being conducted in a “free, peaceful and non-violent” manner, but refrained from making a determination on the fairness of the election. Instead, the South Koreans suggested that Cambodia could learn from South Korean experiences and made a number of recommendations to that effect.
“Having experienced the 19 rounds of general elections, the people of the Republic of Korea came to the fundamental principle of, what is so-called, ‘open your mouth and close your wallet’ to realize free and fair elections.
“Based on this wisdom, the Delegation would like to cordially recommend toward freer and fairer elections in the Kingdom that the Cambodian authorities and political parties should make further efforts in…upgrading fairness of the media and usage of social media, cutting campaign costs by putting away unnecessary mass mobilization, and reforming the voter list, for instance, by adopting a citizen-registration-number system through IT technology.”
China, a one-party communist state that does not conduct general elections, surmised that “the overall election environment was calm, peaceful and non-violent,” and that the elections “were conducted in a competitive, free, fair and transparent manner with participation of 8 political parties, including the main opposition party, Cambodian National Rescue Party.”
“The people of the Kingdom of Cambodia turned out in large numbers to make their voices heard by having freely expressed their will at the ballot box,” the Chinese statement adds, saying that this enables Cambodians to enjoy peace and democracy.
The Hungarian delegation insisted in its statement that after arriving a day before the election, it determined that the indelible ink observers found to wash off easily “is surely indelible.”
“I wish to emphasize that our overall impression was positive, we have witnessed a peaceful and calm campaign—with an enormously active participation of youth—free from serious violence,” it said, adding that it had been informed of some complaints.
“The conduct of the National Assembly election was free, fair, acceptable and transparent. This constructive democratic debate will certainly support the on-going Cambodian reforms for the wellbeing of the people of this beautiful country. This was the victory of democracy,” it added.
Local observers, however, have said that the vote that estimates say gave the CPP 68 seats and the CNRP 55 seats was beset with irregularities and that a substantial number of people were turned away on Sunday as they could not find their name on the voter list.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said he questioned the methodologies employed by the observers, who only stayed for a few days.
“If they just focused on the election day, they have a right to give an opinion, but they should study more deeply what the situation was like pre-election time and also problems of the voter list,” he said.
Thailand on Tuesday became the second country after Bangladesh to officially congratulate Prime Minister Hun Sen for winning the election.
“On behalf of the Royal Thai Government and the people of Thailand, it is my pleasure to extend my warmest congratulations and best wishes to Your Excellency on the victory of the Cambodian People’s Party in this latest general election,” Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said in a letter to Mr. Hun Sen. “I am confident that under Your Excellency’s able leadership, the Kingdom of Cambodia will continue to prosper and overcome any challenges that lie ahead.”