The UNDP’s top administrator, Mark Malloch Brown, warned on Friday that Cambodia cannot afford to let the credibility of the July 27 general elections fall into question as such a result could impact donor assistance.
Prime Minister Hun Sen promised that the elections will be free and fair; however, it would be international and local election monitors who will decide on the quality of the election process, Malloch Brown said.
“My conclusion is that democracy is very much a work in progress in Cambodia and no doubt there will be difficulties in this election,” Malloch Brown told a press conference.
However, vigilance on the part of the reconstituted National Election Committee and Hun Sen commitments to the democratic process left “a good chance of this election meeting a reasonable test of being free and fair,” he said.
“My message to all three party leaders was it must meet that test,” said Malloch Brown who visited Cambodia to attend the Asean Regional Forum.
The total cost of the July election is estimated to be $12.5 million, $7.5 million of which the UNDP has raised through funds donated from Japan, France, Britain, Canada, Australia and the European Union.
If the election was judged not to be free and fair, the UNDP chief said it could jeopardize assistance to Cambodia.
“Cambodia has enjoyed a very high level of donor support…and I think that would be jeopardized if the elections were not free and fair,” he said.
“My impression is that the donors see a free and fair election as absolutely critical to sustaining current levels of development assistance,” he said.
Cambodia has come a long way since his last visiting in 1981, said Malloch Brown, but added that Cambodia’s poverty rate—which is among the worst in Asia—was not being tackled fast enough, and there was a growing gap between urban rich and rural poor.
“Cambodia’s development performance should be at the heart of the election campaign,” he said.