Monday, July 22, 2013

Free and Fair Election?


      Election is the most common mean for people around the world to choose their leaders to run the country peacefully. However, through this peaceful mean, some groups or leaders try to manipulate it in order to legitimize their dictatorial power. In Western Democracy, the election is always free and fair based on the four major conditions: Free from intimidation, equal access to the media, all government institutions are neutral, and the independent national election committee. If all these four major condition are not met, the election result will not reflect to the will of the people. The fifth national election will be held in this coming weekend, and most political observers inside and outside the country have expressed their grave concern about the election result that will not reflect the will of the Cambodian people according to the above conditions.
     1- Are people free from all kinds of intimidation?
For the past three weeks of election campaigns, violence and intimidation have been happened widespread across the country, mainly from the ruling party CCP against the main opposition party CNRP. The intimidation ranked from destroying numerous the opposition party bill boards, throwing objects at the opposition supporters causing injury, setting up group to disrupt the campaigns, hiring people to insult and disrupt the opposition candidate's debate, creating lawsuits against the opposition leaders, deleting the opposition leader name from the candidate list, firing shot at the the opposition's Head Quarter Office, burning down opposition supporter's home, collecting phone numbers and family ID's cards from people by village chiefs without reasons, and buying people to play as the opposition members then defect to the CPP and show them on the TV screens. All these intimidated actions and tricks were not well investigated and stopped by the authorities and the NEC. Most offenders are the members of the CPP and usually spared by police and the local NEC. All kinds of these intimidation and tricks against the opposition supporters are unacceptable in all levels and must be clearly addressed and stopped from happening again by the NEC. Otherwise, all these actions will severely affect the election result.

    2- Do all political parties have equal access to the media?
Media access is the most important mean for all political parties to show their policies to voters in order to help them make a good choice. Without equal access to the information, the political parties will not be able to communicate with the voters and also the voters don't have much choices or hear only one side of the story. This situation is clearly happened in the country. The CPP totally controls most of the media in the country especially all TV stations completely provide solely access to the CPP. No other political party allowed to buy air time or rent for any activity. The absence of TV coverage for the return of the opposition leader from exile is just a small example of unequal access to media. Actually, there is no opposition activities on any TVs 'screen at all except a 15 minute air time broadcasting on TVK for one month election campaigns only. But the CPP is freely to air all its activities without checked and balanced news. The CPP's controlled TVs always try to find only negative news from the opposition to air on their screen if they are lucky enough to find one each day. This totally unbalanced media access will truly create a great negative impact on election result.
    3-Are all government institutions neutral?
The neutrality of all government institution is a safeguard for peace and justice in the country. In a true democratic society, for example in the US, all government institutions--military, police, courts, all levels of state and local administrations are very neutral and independent from the political parties. These institutions serve and protect the interest of the people only not any political party or a ruling party. In opposite, these institutions are closely controlled by the ruling party in Cambodia. The military, police, court, and local administrations are used by the ruling party to intimidate people and to protect the power of the ruling party leader only. For example, the Prime Minister can promote or demote any military or police leaders on his will without any lawful process. For local administrations from village chief to provincial governors are strictly controlled and used by the CPP as tools to intimidate and to exploit the people in election process such as sending these officials to buy votes, distribute gifts, and use other tricks to promote the party victory. These factors profoundly affect the voting result.
   4- Is the National Election Committee (NEC) neutral?
The nine members of the NEC are solely appointed by the CPP. Technically, the NEC is a very critical body that has a duty to organize and guarantee a free and fair election. In a democratic country, the members of this body are carefully selected from many well-known persons who have great skill in electoral laws and not a member of any political parties. But it is not the case in Cambodia, all the nine members of the NEC are the members of the CPP openly or secretively. Even the UN's recommendation required to reform the NEC along with the call from the Civil Societies to replace the old NEC members with the famous and neutral persons, the CPP dominated Assembly members stubbornly rejected all proposals and installed all its party members as the NEC. As the NEC is an other tool for the CPP to manipulate the votes, the process and the result of this election is far away from the international standard.
    In conclusion, to insure that this election is free and fair, all the above four major conditions must be genuinely addressed and made all efforts to correct them according to the constitution.  Any election that fails to meet at least a minimum standard, that election will be meaningless and unacceptable to all parties.

1 comment:

  1. Very Very unfair environment for this election.