Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Lacking Observers, Minor Political Parties File No Complaints During Elections

A Ekpheap Cheat Khmer Party campaign on July 2, 2023.
A Ekpheap Cheat Khmer Party campaign on July 2, 2023.

None of the 12 minor political parties reached by CamboJA said they had filed any complaints to the National Election Committee about Sunday’s elections.

Many did not have election observers at the vast majority of polling stations, which some parties said was due to lack of resources and support for their party. Some parties acknowledged they witnessed some irregularities during elections but chose not to submit complaints.

Un Chim, president of the EkPheap Cheat Khmer party, which ran 47 candidates, said the party had observed local authorities covertly observing voters in some places.

“The problem is that the authorities and the commune chief dress in civilian clothes and hide in front of the entrance to the polling station,” he said. “We want them to abide by the NEC law.” 

But Chim said that the party preferred not to submit a complaint with the National Election Committee (NEC) and declined to elaborate further.

Grassroots Democratic Party spokesperson Sek Sokha said his party, which ran 83 candidates and received around 34,000 votes, did not send any observers to monitor polling stations because there were not enough participants. This made it difficult to observe possible irregularities, he said.

“We can look at the political environment. They [observers] get intimidated or threatened, and second, they may not have a clear understanding of political rights,” he explained.

“We find too few agents, not enough of us,” he added. “In general, if they are not afraid of politics and we can find them, we will put them [as observers].”

Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) holds an election campaign along a street in Phnom Penh on July 10, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)

Beehive Social Democratic Party president Mam Sonando, whose party contested 57 seats, said compromise is crucial for opposition parties.

“If you do not agree, you must also agree, because we cannot review little problems,” he said. “If we review for no reason or it is less, it makes the problem worse, especially to the opposition party like us, so only compromise keeps our country at peace.”

A Beehive Social Democratic Party campaign in Svay Rieng province on July 17, 2023. Supplied

Four parties — the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party, People’s Purpose Party, Khmer Conservative Party and Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Democracy Party — did not respond to requests for comment and the royalist Funcinpec party, which won five seats to the ruling CPP’s 125, declined to comment.

NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea told CamboJA on Tuesday that there had been “no complaints” on election day, regarding irregularities in the electoral process.

In the 2018 elections, the Grassroots Democratic Party filed two complaints, the ruling CPP filed three complaints and the cult leader Kem Veasna’s League for Democracy Party filed 2,520 complaints. The League for Democracy Party did not participate in the commune elections last year or Sunday’s national elections. Chin Thon, the party’s general secretary, could not be reached for comment.

Kamnotra noted that 10 parties did not register observers at any of the more than 23,000 polling stations. Cambodian Nationality Party head Seng Sokheng, which was one of the groups without any observers, acknowledged this precluded the party from being aware of any issues with ballot counting.

The head of the Khmer National United Party, Nhek Bun Chhay, claimed his party dispatched observers to all voting places and said there were no issues. But according to NEC documents analyzed by public database Kamnotra, the party only monitored 14.3% of polling stations.

Supporters of Khmer National United Party campaign in Phnom Penh on July 1, 2023. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)

Only the ruling CPP dispatched observers at all of the more than 23,000 polling stations.

Meas Bopov, president of the Farmer’s Party, said his party did not have enough funds and lacked human resources to send observers. He claimed a media outlet had tried to prevent people from voting for his party but he did not file a complaint to the NEC because he did not want to cause problems. But he said he was satisfied with the election, even though his party did not receive many votes.

Supporters of Khmer National United Party campaign in Phnom Penh on July 1, 2023. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)

Un Visethkun, president of the Democracy Power Party told CamboJA he felt the election went smoothly, but he was unhappy about the slow announcement of the election results.

But he explained he was unhappy when his party was campaigning on the streets and no police came to facilitate traffic like other parties​, which he did not name, but he said this felt unequal.​ 

“I think​ during the street election campaign, it was not 100% equal, it was about 50% equal,” he said.

He said the party did not send observers during the vote count because he felt the party would not be able to win and that he believed the NEC, which is headed by a member of the ruling CPP, would be fair during the vote count: “I trust them 100%.”

Democracy Power Party President Un Visothkun campaigns in Kampot province on July 9, 2023.