The National Election Committee has attacked a report from the US-based International Republican Institute as “exceedingly alarmist” and confused in its assertion that the government has not completely followed up on promises made during the commune council elections of last year.
“The NEC believes that its actions and regulations demonstrate that it is fully devoted to carrying out a transparent election process with strict adherence to its obligations of neutrality and independence,” the NEC said Sunday.
“IRI’s [concerns] have been addressed in a timely fashion and the title and conclusion of their report are exceedingly alarmist in the circumstances,” the NEC said.
The IRI report said that most broadcast radio and television in Cambodia are under the control of the ruling CPP.
Only two independent radio stations exist; both can be heard only in Phnom Penh and one, Beehive radio, was temporarily taken off of the air earlier this year.
The IRI report also slammed the NEC for choosing its members based on recommendations from the CPP and Funcinpec without considering the wishes of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party or civil society at large.
The NEC’s statement said it will offer free airtime on state media for all parties, with the airing of a two-hour program every evening that will cover all political parties during the 30-day elections campaign. The program will be rebroadcast the following morning.
The NEC also will air public announcements asking for calm during the elections to help prevent the violence that characterized the last general elections five years ago.
“Cambodians need to be reminded that arguing about politics can be achieved without turning to violent behavior,” the NEC statement read.
“This is another initiative of the NEC that the IRI didn’t see fit to report as a positive step toward establishing a culture of political tolerance in Cambodia.”
As for the IRI charge that the NEC staffed its organization with members of the coalition government, the NEC replied that its members have worked hard to build the image of the organization as an efficient and neutral institution.
“In that context, it is regrettable that the IRI evaluates the NEC and comes to hasty conclusions regardless of its performance,” the statement said.