Local elections in Cambodia on June 4, 2017, took place in a threatening environment hostile to free speech and genuine political participation, leading to elections that were neither free nor fair, Human Rights Watch said today:
Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly stated that he would be willing to “eliminate 100 to 200 people” if the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) did “not win elections at all stages,” adding to a broader environment of threat and fear against media, political activists, and citizens.
Senior CPP civilian and security forces repeatedly raised the specter of “war” if the CPP lost the election and senior members of the security forces campaigned vigorously for the CPP. Many parts of the CPP-controlled state bureaucracy joined leading CPP members who command the police and military to openly campaign in favor of the CPP….
According to the National Election Committee, Cambodians turned out in record numbers as 89.5 percent of 7.86 million registered voters cast votes for political parties vying for 11,572 seats in 1,646 communes across the country. The NEC introduced its recently-revamped computerized biometric voter registration system and implemented the 2015 Election of Commune Council law guiding polling procedures, both of which were put in place to address criticisms following the country’s 2013 fundamentally flawed national elections.
“It is not a democratic election if the ruling party controls all election-related institutions, the media is a de facto organ of the ruling party, and opposition party members face death threats from the prime minister,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Under no standards anywhere can an election be deemed free or fair where these kinds of problems exist.”