Comfrel to Boycott Elections; Says Race Is Meaningless

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia will boycott the nation’s first-ever district, provincial and municipal council elections, which are scheduled for May 17, 2009, according to a statement.

The National Election Commit­tee plans to spend $1.5 million to hold the “indirect” election, meaning that only members of commune councils—not the general public—will vote to choose district, municipal and provincial councilors.

In its statement, Comfrel called the election “meaningless.” If the election monitoring organization follows through, it would mark the second time Comfrel has boycotted a political race. Comfrel also boycotted the 2007 Senate election.

“Comfrel won’t participate in the [2009] election process because the e­lection result is already known. It is an undemocratic election” because com­mune councilors will likely vote along party lines, said Koul Pan­ha, Comfrel’s executive director.

The majority of the country’s commune councils are dominated by the CPP. The last commune council election resulted in the CPP gaining 7,993 commune seats. The SRP won 2,660; the NRP got 425 and Funcinpec re­ceived 274.

“This election just draws the image of an election, but it is actually meaningless,” Koul Panha said, adding that $1.5 million “was an in­ef­ficient expenditure with no benefits in terms of democratic elections.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap dismissed Comfrel’s announcement.

“Every election is a democratic process,” he said. “We don’t want to waste time and money [on a full election] so they have an indirect election,” he added, noting that commune councilors are representatives of the public be­cause they were elected in a general election.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nytha said the NEC will move forward with the election regardless of Comfrel’s boycott, and he defended the election method.

“The votes are secret. People might not vote for their party affiliation,” he said.


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