Cambodia July 23 Elections

Raising the alarm over the genuineness of Cambodia’s elections

Cambodia: Access Now joins other civil society organizations in raising the alarm around the legitimacy of the July 23 elections, highlighting the harassment of political opposition and civil society both online and offline.

The undersigned organizations express our profound concern over the upcoming election for the National Assembly in Cambodia, scheduled to occur tomorrow. We firmly believe that this election is poised to lack genuineness and meaningful electoral competitiveness, raising serious doubts about its adherence to democratic principles and international election standards.

Our apprehensions are rooted in the observed international standards used in assessing the legitimacy of elections, on which the upcoming electoral exercise indicates a notable absence of transparency, fairness, and inclusivity in the electoral process. Instances of biased decisions by the election management body, suppressed opposition, restricted political freedoms, and limited access to impartial information have cast a shadow over the integrity and quality of the electoral process and election results.

We are particularly troubled by concerns surrounding the independence and neutrality of the National Election Commission (NEC). Evidence suggests a clear bias towards the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and the exclusion of the Candlelight Party from participating in the elections serves as a stark example of the severely restricted political space and the unfair limitations imposed on opposition parties. Such disqualification further exacerbates the imbalanced and unjust political environment, leaving minimal room for opposition voices to compete on equal footing with the ruling party. 

Moreover, the shrinking space available for civil society and the deliberate targeting of human rights defenders and activists raise serious alarm. The constriction of civic space undermines the active participation of civil society in the electoral process without fear of reprisal. 

Additionally, media freedom faces constraints, with independent media and other election stakeholders experiencing harassment online as well as offline, while state-controlled media dominate the information landscape. Considering these deeply entrenched issues, tomorrow’s election is likely to fall short of meeting the criteria for credible elections, including transparency, inclusion and the accountability of election stakeholders. 

The identified flaws in all aspects, combined with the evident bias towards the ruling party, seriously compromise the principles of democracy and seriously question the integrity and credibility of the electoral process. 

In light of these concerns, we urge the ASEAN, its member States, and all other international communities to refrain from legitimizing the election and to continue supporting the people of Cambodia in their quest for freedom and democracy. Upholding the democratic values is essential to foster a just and equitable society, and we stand united in advocating for an accountable, transparent, inclusive, and genuinely competitive electoral process in Cambodia.