Cambodia came closer to the reality of democracy based upon political plurality,
a free exchange of political ideas, and a multi-party election in a neutral political
environment on Aug. 12 with the enactment of a legal framework for next year's elections.
The U.N. Law for the Conduct of a Free and Fair Election of a Constituent Assembly
for Cambodia, subjects the peace process to a new dimension of clear legal regulation
and creates distinct and enforceable rights and obligations upon all persons, parties
and organizations involved in this historic endeavor.
Of key significance to the new law is that it now enables Cambodian political parties
to apply for provisional registration, giving Cambodians the simple-but long unfamiliar-right
to participate in political activity throughout the country. In this sense, the electoral
law is a definitive landmark in the process of ending one-party government. But at
the same time the law also obliges all registered parties to tolerate the political
activity of other registered parties. It should mark a further step in the movement
from a conflict of arms to a competition of ideas.
Another important aspect of provisional registration is that political parties will
be required to affirm their commitment to a free and fair election and its results
and adhere to the non-violent and democratic standards set out in the electoral law's
code of conduct.
The mutual toleration and political interaction required by the law is basic to the
electoral process. Equally important however, is the fact that parties are required
to register before the forthcoming voter registration process. There, the UNTAC registration
officials-predominantly Cambodians-will decide upon the applicants for voter registration.
The political parties' participation in the registration process will be vital, as
party agents will be entitled to attend, observe, and comment on the registration
process. This will, with the registration officials, endow the entire process with
a Cambodian quality which is essential to this exercise in self-determination.
All parties registered provisionally will enjoy basic political freedoms. These include
the freedom to move around Cambodia, to inform, and to be informed, and to build
up their peaceful political organization everywhere in the country. This is critical
to creating the neutral political environment called for by the Paris Agreement to
insure a free and fair election. It is most important, in this context, to note that
voter registration is as important a part of the electoral process as any other,
including the final polling.
The entire UNTAC operation in Cambodia is a process. It involves developing democratic
awareness and tolerance, and abandoning the violence which has blighted past decades.
We have now reached a new and critical point in that process.
The obligations and rights set out in the Paris Agreement are reinforced, refined
and supported by the electoral law with sanctions to back it. The most drastic of
these would entitle the Special Representative to exclude an offending person or
party from participating in the process. There is also provision for the imposition
One hopes and expects that such negative action will not have to be resorted to.
The entire fabric of the peace process is based upon the mutual desire of the factions
to allow the Cambodian people a free choice, as to both the constitution under which
they will live and the leaders who will govern them under the constitution.
The provisional registration of parties is important because it will mark the further
commitment of the parties to submit to the people's choice and to the electoral law
which will enable that choice-that election-to take place in a free, fair, and neutral
- Reginald Austin, UNTAC Chief Electoral Officer