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All views should be shared

A member of the public casts her vote under the supervision of an attendant inside Sothearos High School
A member of the public casts her vote under the supervision of an attendant inside Sothearos High School in July. Hong Menea

All views should be shared

Dear Editor,

In reference to your article “CNRP, report authors ‘plotted’, Sok An says”, January 29, 2014, I wanted to clarify my quotation regarding “sharing some similar viewpoints” with the opposition and provide some context on the Electoral Reform Alliance (ERA).

My full remarks were more general and applicable anywhere – civil society organisations can share an opinion or position on an issue with a political party. This does not, however, mean they support the party or are “plotting with it”.

An NGO and a political party can easily come up with the same policy independently of each other, and this should not impinge upon the NGO’s independence credentials. NDI in Cambodia has at times vocalised positions that have coincided with those of the opposition, and, it should be noted, with the ruling CPP.

ERA is a coalition of NGOs and civil society organisations that share both the opposition and the government’s stated desire for electoral reform. However, ERA operates independently of both, putting forward the coalition’s own research, activities and reform recommendations, recommendations which may or may not be shared in full by the country’s parties and government.

ERA provided a draft of its report on the July elections to all political parties, ahead of a public launch, to solicit their feedback, and offered to meet with them to discuss. Unfortunately, only the CNRP took ERA up on this offer and the CNRP was also the only party that participated in the ERA launch in December, although all were invited.

In sum, ERA has consistently reached out to all parties equally and will continue to do so.

With regard to the findings in the ERA report, as the article mentions, they are entirely based on either statistically-significant research (audits, sample-based monitoring) or government data (from the National Election Committee, National Institute for Statistics and other government bodies).

This fact was also pointed out by the NEC following the ERA launch, with an NEC spokesperson describing the report as simply the presentation of their data and, therefore, “nothing new”.

If the government indeed rejects the ERA findings – for example, the charts and graphs on polling station creation, turnout, ICE distribution and registration and population rates in comparison to electoral results – then they are also questioning their own data and NEC figures.

To the other point in the article, it is entirely possible that there is a link between citizen action and/or protests and access to information, including research or reports. Since July, there are groups dissatisfied with the election process and people frustrated at having been unable to exercise their franchise, and they may certainly rely on any relevant information on the elections that back up their concerns.

This does not mean, however, that ERA is behind the protests. ERA makes information available to all and cannot be responsible for how various interest groups may choose to use it.

NDI is supportive of any efforts to promote electoral reform and welcomes the government’s commitment to such reform, as articulated numerous times by government leaders and even, most recently, in Geneva.

We are looking forward to actively participating in, and providing information to, the electoral reform meetings and efforts organised by the government. We hope this will be an open and inclusive process, where all viewpoints can be shared in the spirit of democracy and progress.

Laura Thornton
Senior Director,
NDI

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