kompong cham town – Deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Sunday he is optimistic the elections will be deemed free and fair, labeling the elections as “a victory for democracy and the people of Cambodia.”
Speaking as he arrived to cast his ballot at Teak Sen polling station in Kompong Cham town, the prince said he thinks intimidation that marred the start of the campaign has decreased, improving the voting atmosphere.
“According to what I have seen along the road to Kompong Cham, there are huge crowds at every polling station. I think that the people of Cambodia, with some hesitation when the electoral campaign started, now I think they feel very comfortable to come and vote,” he said.
“At the end of the day we will see. If we will have from 80 or 90 percent of voters at the end of this day, we can surely qualify, with some reservation…these as free and fair elections.”
“At this moment I think [the election is] not completely free and fair because we do not have the access to the media…freedom of speech, etc, but we have to say that in spite of clear intimidation, we do have a very acceptable electoral campaign and, I hope, polling day, and we will assess later.”
But the prince said he would not necessarily accept the poll results.
“How could we say I have to accept any kind of result?” he questioned. “We have to wait for the vote and the counting…and after that we will have to wait for the general assessment that will be made by our agents and representatives from friendly countries and from foreign observers as well before concluding.”
Prince Ranariddh refused to reveal his thoughts on who he might choose as a coalition partner. But he vowed that if his party wins the election, he will propose scrapping the constitutional requirement that makes a coalition necessary.
“We will propose an amendment to the Constitution. The formation of the government will not be decided any more by a two-thirds majority…which forces people to have a coalition. It is not a very democratic way.”
The prince said the 1993 power-sharing arrangement with himself and Hun Sen as first and second prime ministers respectively had taught him a lesson.
“This bitter lesson has to be learned, and we have to be very cautious about human rights and about democracy. We have to let the National Assembly be the platform where the opposition and the members of parliament have to express their will,” he said, vowing that under his rule, Cambodia would become “a really liberal and democratic country.”