Candlelight Party: Commune Election Was Not Free and Fair, NEC Denies

The Candlelight Party issued on June 6 holds press conference on primary election results. Photo screenshot from Thach Setha's Facebook

The opposition party expressed regrets over preliminary results of Commune/Sangkat Council election

PHNOM PENH – The Candlelight Party issued on June 6 a statement to express its regrets over the preliminary results of the Commune election, stating they “don’t reflect the will of the Cambodian people.” 

The statement says that the election, being held under the control of a non-neutral body, was not conducted in a free and fair environment, adding that citizens couldn’t freely participate in politics and enjoy their freedom of expression.

“The National Election Committee is not independent because the institution is composed by members of the ruling party, from top to bottom, leading to biased decision making and management,” the statement reads.

It adds that the Candlelight Party has been intimidated since the preparation of the candidate lists, to the submission of the observers' list, as well as during activities to mobilize its supporters.

Candlelight Party Vice President Thach Setha said during a press conference on June 6 that some of its observers were threatened while monitoring the election process.

He said that since the early morning of the election, people who were just observing the voting process were threatened, preventing the monitoring process from taking place normally until the closure of polling stations.

“This shows that the election was not free and fair. Neutrality and independence of NEC should be strengthened,” Setha said. 

In its statement, the Candlelight Party regrets that polling stations were closed from 3:00 p.m., not allowing any citizens to enter and observe the counting of ballots, except for ruling party authorities and NGOs representatives affiliated to the ruling party. In some cases, people were not allowed to take pictures of the results, leading to the suspicion of votes not being counted properly.

Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman has denied the allegations made by the Candlelight Party, expressing that the NEC has fully completed its duties to provide a free and fair election.

Puthea told Cambodianess that statements from other political parties, national and international observers expressed that the right of voters has been respected, and that the ballot counting was also done accurately. Therefore, the Candlelight Party statement only reflects their own opinion.

 “NEC won’t do anything that goes against the rules and regulations of the election procedure,” Puthea said. “This election went smoothly and correctly. If one wants to make a general assessment of the election, they should just look at the majority opinion.” 

When asked about the accusation from the Candlelight Party that the voting did not reflect the will of the citizens, Puthea responded that the party’s statement was just a way to continue their political activities, but NEC has performed well in its roles and responsibilities.

“I totally deny the allegations made by the Candlelight Party because a majority of observers evaluated this election as being free and fair,” Puthea said.

He also called on the Candlelight Party to file a complaint to NEC, if they think there was any irregularity in the election process. NEC will be pleased to examine it.


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