A German public policy think tank has claimed that the July 29 national elections will not be democratic and a “farce” without the participation of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party.
In an article published on its website last week, Heinrich Böll Foundation country director Ali Al-Nasani called the coming elections undemocratic.
Reacting strongly to the article, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed its author as “democratically blind”.
Al-Nasani claimed the democratic space in the Kingdom had been reduced, citing allegations of an opposition crackdown, the closure of radio stations and newspapers and the monitoring of critical voices on social media.
“With the massive restrictions on democratic freedoms, the positive developments of the last years have been cut back again,” he alleged.
He highlighted the government’s threats to dissolve all NGOs that are not politically neutral. “[Remaining] politically neutral is, in this sense, interpreted as being mute,” he said.
Although there are 19 parties competing with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Al-Nasani said they were largely unknown.
“The national elections at the end of July, without the participation of the major opposition [CNRP], [will] be a farce,” he said.
Siphan shot back, saying: “This is an insult and an attack on Cambodian democracy. We have 19 parties competing with the CPP. It is the right of the people to compete for power. This is the foundation of democracy.
“The election is competitive. The person who wrote this is not correct. He is the one who is blind [regarding] democracy. He doesn’t understand democracy in Cambodia,” he said.
Defending the ruling on the CNRP, Siphan continued: “The court can dissolve any party [with a case] based on fact and legal provision.
“The claim that the elections will be a farce is an insult to the Cambodian nation. The person who said this is against all Cambodians, not just democracy.”
He added that Cambodia didn’t need the support of “such people” because the Kingdom is a sovereign state where people have full rights to elect their leaders.