Prime Minister Hun Sen has informed the National Election Committee (NEC) that they must call off the planned commune-level trial elections scheduled for June 20, fearing that it could result in the increased transmission of Covid-19.

In an audio message released on June 9, Hun Sen said the priority right now is combating Covid-19.

“It’s not the time to mobilise people to learn about voting in a trial election. At this time the NEC must join with the government to combat Covid-19. Mobilising people to do trial-runs for elections is not necessary,” he said.

“On behalf of the government, I am preparing a letter to the NEC instructing them to cancel the trial-run of the commune elections currently scheduled to be held on June 20,” he said.

A total of 25 communes across the nation were chosen to conduct the trial election by mobilising their residents to participate and learn proper voting procedures while testing out new election procedures for the NEC.

“I order all governors in the capital and provinces to refrain from mobilising their people for the trial-run of the election, from this hour,” he said.

He said he was forced to issue this directive in order to prevent the unnecessary mobilisation of civil servants, police officers and citizens who would otherwise be expected to carry out and participate in the unnecessary trial election and this was the only method he had to ensure it was halted immediately.

Hun Sen noted that the government respects the independence of the NEC, but he said it must understand the difficult burdens that the executive branch is now shouldering due to the pandemic.

He further said that the NEC should also understand the difficulties faced by the people who have been affected by Covid-19 and are still trying to recover their livelihoods while they deal with the socio-economic fall-out from the pandemic.

NEC spokesperson Dim Sovanarom said the election body has agreed to cancel the planned trial election for all 25 participating communes across the country following the reception of the Prime Minister’s message.