Cambodian Election 2013
My humble observations to date:
- Cambodians will go to vote for the fifth time since 1993 to elect the 123 Members of Parliament (MP). Eight political parties are registered to contest the July 28 general election, down from 60 parties in 1993 and 40 in 1998. It is basically the competition between two main political rivals: the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by PM Hun Sen and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) led by Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha.
- The CNRP poses as real challenge for the ruling party since the two opposition parties, SRP and HRP, merged in Manila in July 2012. The two leaders realized that only working together is the best way to challenge the current government led by PM Hun Sen.
- It is amazing to observe that more and more young people are joining the election campaigns of political parties in this upcoming election. On one side they are free and happy to join, even with small donation to the party. On the other side, they were requested to join, offered food, gasoline, allowance etc. Most of the campaigns have gone through peacefully and joyfully, without any incident. Politics should be meaningful and funny for all.
- No serious violence related cases recorded so far, only minor incidents. It is a lot of improvement when we compared to 1993 elections, in which hundreds of not-ruling parties’ supporters were killed or injured.
- We could also observe that the CNRP gained more support from Cambodians wherever their campaign convoys go. Kem Sokha, CNRP’s Vice-President, enjoys increased popularity, especially after the failed campaigns to discredit him via organized massed demonstrations and so-called love affairs, recently. it was supposed to bring him down, but ordinary people start to feel pity on him and the political theater was ordered to stop.
- It is also important to note that parties are starting to debate and counter argue policies based on facts, not just personal attacks and blunt accusation. It is still a beginning, but a good step in the right direction.
- Social media network, especially facebook, contributes a lot to attract young people to share, to voice their opinions and/or critical comments, to update news and information and to gather more support or more people to join election campaigns etc.
- With the intervention of PM Hun Sen, on July 12, the King pardoned Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, at least for the fourth time. I am very much relieved to see this positive development to improve the political situation and image of this country, at home and at the world stage. I wish that all Cambodian politicians put the national interests above political differences and act more civilized to solve national challenges collectively, despite different approaches. Play political game with dignity. Sam Rainsy announced that he will return to Cambodia on 19 July to participate in the election. However since his name was deleted and he is barred from standing as PM candidate, he could not participate fully this time. It remains to be seen what is coming next?
- This time, we have mostly local election observers with 20,300 persons from 25 organizations. Only 50 foreign observers are registered, mainly from ASEAN countries.
- The government covers 100% of the costs with some technical and material support of friendly governments. Local observers and party agents are playing big roles in observing this election and foreign observers are minimal.
- It is widely expected that with the help of a friendly NEC, friendly mass media, organized party and state structure down to group levels, carrots and sticks approaches, mounts of cash; the CPP will probably win again. However, the CPP leaders are not certain that they could keep their 90 seats as it is now. It is also feasible that CNRP would gain more seats from currently 29 seats to 50 or higher, with the current circumstances. Let’s wait and see, but we have to help the way we could to make this election a peaceful one and one step further in the direction of democratization of our beloved country.