Cambodia’s main opposition leader Sam Rainsy asked the authorities Wednesday to put off national elections scheduled for July, citing inconsistencies in voter registration and barring of the opposition to observe the ballot process.
“The elections need to be postponed in order to conduct genuine elections,” the exiled head of the opposition coalition National Rescue Party (NRP) told a roundtable in Washington.
“We need to reestablish the voter list,” he said, adding that registration needs to better “reflect the electorate.”
Cambodia’s opposition members have demanded a number of electoral reforms ahead of the elections scheduled for July 28, including a review of irregularities in voter registration lists.
Sam Rainsy also criticized practices put in place to monitor voting in July, saying that only observers from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) are allowed into polling stations to check any ballot stuffing and other forms of fraud.
“Another demand [we have] is to allow representatives of parties other than the CPP to watch over the ballots,” he said.
“It is better to postpone the elections in order to have real elections instead of having fake elections on time.”
Sam Rainsy has been living in self-imposed exile in France since 2009, facing a total of 11 years in prison over a string of convictions that critics contend are politically motivated.
The National Election Committee (NEC), which organizes and manages all elections in the country, has said that he cannot stand in the coming elections because of his convictions.
In addition to criticism over voter lists and the balloting process, Cambodia’s opposition has also called on the government to reform the NEC to make it more transparent and to allow Sam Rainsy to participate in the election.
The demands echo recommendations to Prime Minister Hun Sen made earlier this year by U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi, who was accused by the government of siding with the country’s political opposition and civil society.
Local rights groups have charged that the NEC is biased toward the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and election watchdogs say voters are intimidated into supporting the CPP through restrictions on freedom of expression, rights abuses, and land disputes.
Last week, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL) and several human rights groups demanded that the NEC post a list of voters for upcoming crucial elections in all villages and involve key political parties in the supervision of the polling process.
They expressed concern over the lack of transparency in preparations for the polls along with what they felt was weak management in the selection of ground election supervisors and the "poor quality" of the voters list.
Ahead of commune elections held in June last year, the COMFREL said some 1.5 million people who had voted in the two previous polls were nowhere to be found on voter lists.
The group accused the NEC of being responsible for irregularities in the voting lists, which it said included missing, misspelled, and redundant names.