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Massive Fraud Haunts Cambodian Elections

As expected, Cambodia’s ruling party was declared winner in the National Assembly elections but the opposition has rejected the results and accused the government of committing widespread fraud.

The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power in the past 28 years. It won 68 seats while the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) managed to get 55 seats.

Perhaps Andy Brouwer’s Twitter post reflected the overall impact of the elections:

Writing for the Bangkok Post, popular Cambodian blogger and Global Voices author Kounila Keo recognized the active participation of young people in the campaign:

…it cannot be denied that there has been an active participation of Cambodian young people on the internet and social media. And, they are hungry for change in their lives and that of their next generation.

It does not matter who has won this election. Despite election irregularities, younger voters have overcome fear to make their voices heard through the ballots. And they want change.

As a young voter, I was really moved by young people's willingness to actively participate and show their courage for the first time.

During the 30-day electoral campaigns, hundreds of thousands of youth took to the streets in Phnom Penh and used social media to express their thoughts and convictions without fear. I suddenly felt empowered to discuss political issues in depth freely, knowing I would no longer be alone doing that.

Tharum observed that social media became a more reliable source of election updates than mainstream media:

But Tith Chandara lamented the unethical behavior of some Internet users:

The engagement of some social media users in Cambodia in supporting their favorite party is on some ways unethical and violent while harsh words, aggressive responses and fake graphic designs are discovered since the campaign started. Users share pictures, graphics without checking for confirmation on sources, though they know sometimes the information is not (yet) official.

Jinja analyzed the election results and mentioned some voting irregularities

Anecdotally speaking: this is the first time I’ve had Khmer friends come to me and note that their name was not on the voter rolls, or that it had been voted by someone else. International monitoring organizations concur… mostly.

Election Day. Photo from Facebook page of CPP Cambodia

Election Day. Photo from Facebook page of CPP Cambodia

Casey Nelson discussed how the ethnic Vietnamese was vilified during the campaign:

The Vietnamese are the Khmer’s ethnic Other, the first minority group onto which blame falls during times of political and social tension.

The relationship between Vietnam and Cambodia is complicated, and traditional ethnic antagonism is deeply intertwined with historical and political animosities which are not completely unjustified, but when things turn bad in Cambodia, it is often if not always the poor, powerless ethic Vietnamese that take the violent brunt of it.

Writing for the Asia Times Online, Sebastian Strangio reminded the opposition to use its good showing in the polls to wield greater political influence:

As the country enters a brave new political world, the opposition, flushed with success, will have to perform a delicate dance if it is to transform electoral returns into real reforms and practical power.

But Caroline Hughes, who contributed an article for the Asia Sentinel, doubts if the opposition has a real alternative that it can offer:

…it is hard to gauge from opposition party pronouncements how they might produce a development strategy for Cambodia that would significantly differ from that over which the CPP has presided. In terms of development, Cambodia has simply followed its more advanced South East Asian neighbors in pursuing a strategy of asset stripping the countryside and soaking up the dispossessed rural poor into low-wage manufacturing and services employment in the towns.

Brad Adams of the Human Rights Watch mentioned the proliferation of fake election documents that undermined the voting process:

Senior ruling party officials appear to have been involved in issuing fake election documents and fraudulently registering voters in multiple provinces. And people from the party seem to have been turning up in places where they clearly don’t live and insisting on voting – not to mention the many other claims of fraud around the country.

The multiple voting scheme suggests the possibility of systematic election fraud by the CPP and raises serious questions about the credibility of the election.

But other international observers described the recent Cambodian elections as ‘free, fair, and transparent’:

…a triumph of popular will and a victory of the Cambodian people in their quest to build a better future based on the supremacy and sanctity of the ballot.

For Nikitung91, a coalition is needed to improve the situation in the country:

I still think a coalition would be a good solution…but no parties really agree so…

At the end of the day, I really don’t care who will lead the country, all I want is a healthy and strong improving country. No war within the country will happen if we listen to the population, no need to fraud the elections, to manipulate the media.

  • Erik W Davis

    Thanks for the link (introduced within the blockquote from Kounila’s excellent piece in the Bangkok Post). Since it’s within a line that says “it does not matter who won this election,” I should clarify that this is certainly not my opinion, not the opinion of the piece I wrote that is linked. My point was, instead, that representational politics can be counted upon to do two things consistently: ramp up the ‘us versus them’ rhetoric, which we saw deployed by the CNRP consistently (regarding Vietnamese minorities in Cambodia) and by the CPP (in their tiresome invocations of the “Khmer Rouge” and ‘civil war’), and to *discourage* organized social change between election cycles.

    Best wishes.

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