Cambodia 2013 Elections
Cambodia’s National Election Committee formally reaffirmed that exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy was ineligible to run for office or vote in the country's upcoming elections. NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha told reporters 04 January 2013 that the new opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party would be allowed to contest the parliamentary elections. But he said Rainsy would not be eligible because his name has been deleted from the national voter registry. “Political compromise is different from technicality of voter registration, because we are under a different law," said Tep. "Political compromise is only for political issues.” Rainsy faced a prison sentence if he returned to Cambodia, and the law does not allow persons convicted of a crime to participate in elections. He and his supporters have said the charges against him were politically motivated. The announcement was a setback to the opposition, which had hoped the political activist would be allowed to return to lead a coalition against the ruling party.
Parliamentary elections were scheduled for 28 July 2013. Hun Sen predicted in April 2013 that his party would win at least a two-thirds majority in the upcoming polls in which the main opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, was barred from standing because of a string of convictions against him which he says were politically motivated. A total of 14 children of senior Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) members were registered to run in the July 28 election. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel) warned in its annual report in March 2013 that Cambodia’s democracy was “increasingly fragile” and that the electoral process was excluding opposition and dissenting voices ahead of the election.
Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) had 90 seats in 123-seat National Assembly. The Sam Rainsy Party [SRP] has 26 seats and the Human Rights Party [HRP] just three. The SRP and HRP members joined the new Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) led by exiled opposition chief Sam Rainsy, who has been barred from standing in the elections because of a string of convictions against him which he says were politically motivated.
In early June 2013 a key committee of the National Assembly, the country's lower house of parliament, controlled by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) approved a measure to dismiss the 29 opposition members from the legislature because their parties have merged into a new group. The parliament’s permanent committee, members of whom were all from the CPP, made the decision at a secret meeting in an alleged attempt by Hun Sen to cripple the opposition ahead of the July 28 elections. The parliamentary panel had ruled that 26 opposition legislators from the former Sam Rainsy Party and three from the former Human Rights Party were no longer MPs because they had quit their old parties under which they contested their seats.
Tens of thousands of supporters thronged the streets of Cambodia’s capital June 27, 2013 to officially kick off campaigns for political parties contesting next month’s national elections, as the exiled leader of the country’s main opposition group said he would not return for the polls. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) and at least five opposition parties, including exiled leader Sam Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), held separate rallies in Phnom Penh in preparation of the 28 July 2013 vote. The poll was the fifth national election since the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords ended decades of civil war in Cambodia, including the 1975-79 rule of the notorious Khmer Rouge, which killed millions of the country’s citizens. The CPP, presided over by Hun Sen, was widely expected to win the vote.
The Cambodian government announced July 12, 2013 that opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy had been pardoned and was free to return to the country ahead of the general election scheduled for July 28. Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Prime Minister Hun Sen had sent a request for a royal pardon to Cambodia’s king. The assent of the king, a constitutional monarch, was a formality. The spokesman said the pardon was to promote national reconciliation. Sam Rainsy’s return thrilled supporters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the coalition of key opposition parties formed to contest the election. The group remained the only serious challenger to Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party. It also came as a relief to those among Cambodia’s foreign donors who had been involved in brokering a solution.
Sam Rainsy returned from nearly four years in self-exile on 19 July 2013, but election officials said he was not eligible to run for office, despite the pardon. Sam Rainsy was ineligible to run for office in the July 28 elections because the registration of candidates has long been closed and his name has been removed from the electoral register, according to the National Election Committee (NEC), the body that manages the country's elections. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, had suggested that Hun Sen pave the way for Sam Rainsy to run in the elections. The opposition said it continued to face political intimidation in the run-up to the election.
Rainsy campaigned freely in the run-up to the vote and drew large crowds of supporters, suggesting his return had given a boost to the opposition. Cambodia's electoral system faced major problems, including issues over voter registration lists, the use of civil servants and army personnel to campaign for Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), government control of mass media to slant the news, and intimidation against opposition figures and civil society monitors.
The Cambodian government claimed victory July 28, 2013 in the national election, indicating that longtime leader Hun Sen would extend his 28-year rule despite a strong challenge from a rejuvenated opposition. A government spokesman said Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party [CPP] won 68 seats in the nation's 123-seat parliament. That figure represented a significant decline from the 90 seat majority previously held by the party. There was no immediate confirmation from the National Election Committee, which was expected to release official results in the coming days.
Human Rights Watch said 13 January 2015 the leader of Cambodia, Hun Sen, had "repeatedly used political violence, repression, and corruption to remain in power," as the leader neared his 30th anniversary in power. Hun Sen's anniversary made him the sixth longest-serving political leader in the world, a tenure the group said was achieved through violence and fear. In a report released Tuesday, the group's Asia director Brad Adams said Cambodia urgently needs reforms so its people can exercise their basic human rights without fear of arrest, torture, or execution.
The killing of independent analyst Kem Ley 10 July 2016 and a broad crackdown on dissent in Cambodia hardened attitudes against Prime Minister Hun Sen among the Khmer diaspora living in Australia and the United States. Kem Ley, a popular commentator and grassroots campaigner, was gunned down as he drank coffee at a mart just before 9am. Kem Ley was critical of both the government and opposition parties, advocating for a new era of clean politics. But the bulk of his criticism was aimed at Hun Sen's ruling party.
However, prominent members of the communities warn disillusionment with the long-ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) would not automatically result in further support for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, currently living in self-imposed exile in France. In Australia, the Khmer expatriate community dropped his support for Sam Rainsy, head of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). The opposition leader's performance, after losing four consecutive elections, and a lack of consultation with the diaspora in Australia had cost him.
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