The European Union announced today that it is suspending all support for Cambodia’s National Election Committee, calling credible elections impossible in the current climate.
In a letter to the chairman of the NEC, Sik Bun Hok, EU Ambassador George Edgar cites the government’s recent crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party – dissolved by the Supreme Court last month – as the reason for the suspension.
Since the commune elections, he writes, “a series of actions has been taken by the authorities against the main opposition party, which won 44.5% of the vote in the 2013 legislative election and 43.8% in the 2017 local elections”.
“The dissolution of the CNRP also means that it will not be able to run in the National Assembly elections in 2018. An electoral process from which the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded cannot be seen as legitimate,” the letter reads. “Under these circumstances, the European Union does not believe there is a possibility of a credible electoral process.”
The EU pledged €10 million to support the NEC for the 2017 local and 2018 national elections. It is unclear how much of that money remains to be disbursed, but Ambassador Edgar in an interview last week said that a large part had already been spent on equipment.
With this move, the EU becomes the second international partner to suspend its assistance for the NEC following the United States’ end of support last month.
Som Sorida, NEC deputy secretary-general, criticised the EU’s decision to link politics to NEC funding, though he insisted the election body would still be able to do its work as planned.
“NEC is ready to organise the next election,” he said, adding that Japan, China, South Korea and Russia would continue to support it.
Updates to follow.