A US-based organization Monday declared that Sunday’s commune elections were not free or fair, and blamed the Cambodian government for the violence and lack of equitable media coverage during the pre-election period.
“Election Day demonstrated that Cambodians have the capacity to meet [international election] standards, but…the Cambodian government took pro-active measures to prevent [the elections] from rising to international standards,” said George Folsom, president of the International Republican Institute, a Washington-based group.
At a news conference, Folsom cited “acts of murder and intimidation against opposition activists, impunity for these acts, an uneven playing field for political parties and a biased administration of the electoral law by the National Election [Committee].”
He blamed the government for deliberately failing to register one million eligible voters, censoring media coverage and hindering domestic election observers—emphasizing that these acts were “calculated.”
“The failure of these elections to reach international standards was the result of a lack of political will on the part of the Cambodian government—not a lack of capability,” Folsom said.
He called on Cambodians and the international community to put continued pressure on the government in the post-election period, when ousted commune chiefs must step aside.
Asked who was to blame for the pre-election problems, Folsom answered: “The government of Cambodia—the ruling party and the government of Cambodia writ large. This is not necessarily a monolithic force…but the responsibility clearly rests with the government of Cambodia.”
Nonetheless, Folsom said the elections were a step forward that “opened a door to build a culture of democracy at the grassroots, which now opens a new phase through developing good governance at the local level.”