Search

 

Cablegate: Cambodian Electoral Processes Offer Improved

VZCZCXRO1009
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0630/01 2131054
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 311054Z JUL 08 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
NSC WASHINGTON DC
HQ USPACOM HONOLULU

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PHNOM PENH 000630

****CORRECTED COPY (ADDRESSES ADDED)*******

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/FO, EAP/MLS, EAP/PD, P, D, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/30/2018
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIAN ELECTORAL PROCESSES OFFER IMPROVED
FREEDOM TO CHOOSE BUT REQUIRE CORRECTIVE MEASURES FOR FUTURE

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 622
B. PHNOM PENH 613
C. PHNOM PENH 611
D. PHNOM PENH 602
E. PHNOM PENH 601
F. PHNOM PENH 576
G. PHNOM PENH 575
H. PHNOM PENH 570
I. PHNOM PENH 565

Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOSEPH A. MUSSOMELI FOR REASONS 1.4 (B,D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Given the overall peaceful atmosphere of
Cambodia's July 27 National Assembly election and its
generally competent conduct, the contesting parties
(especially the ruling Cambodian People's Party) and the
CPP-dominated National Election Committee (NEC) deserve some
recognition for attempting to improve on past performances.
Assessing the main flaws -- limits to NEC independence;
unequal media access for political parties; and the cost (in
real voters removed from voter rolls) associated with the
beneficial erasure of 450,000 ghost voters -- the election
fell short of some international standards. However,
examining the great freedoms given to all candidates to speak
their minds during hundreds of hours of mass media exposure
over the 30-day campaign period, and given the limited
violence and intimidation, combined with a competently and
smoothly conducted election day, embassy concludes that the
Cambodian election was substantially freer than any previous
election held in Cambodia, was free from violence, and
allowed the Cambodian people to express their will in a more
open and equitable atmosphere. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) A fundamental flaw in the Cambodian electoral
process known to all parties since the beginning of the
election year is the overwhelming domination of mass media by
the CPP, though the print press is indeed quite free and at
least a dozen newspapers with lively commentaries appear on
newsstands every day. During the 30-day election campaign
itself, the ten parties other than CPP had abundant
opportunity to get their message out on TV and radio airwaves
(Ref I) and embassy observations on the campaign trail
documented the greater freedom of parties to circulate
without hindrance. NDI-sponsored debates held in 10
provinces and carried in national radio and televisions
broadcasts, gave the people a chance to put questions
directly to the candidates running in their provinces. The
questions were not always easy and the citizen questioners
dramatically showcased an electorate that understood it could
use the power of the poll to remind politicians they had a
vital social contract with their voters to deliver services
and development.

3. (C) The disenfranchisement of more than 50,000 voters in
the voter list clean-up process (Ref I) was a disappointing
development, even though this group represented less than
seven tenths of one percent of all the registered voters.
This issue relates more to the registration process which,
while flawed, is steadily improving. As our Embassy mission
observed -- confirmed by an independent NICFEC survey -- the
vast majority of registered voters were able to locate their
polling stations and cast their votes.

4. (C) The structure of the NEC and the legal framework of
the election law also require more attention. A more
independent agency with greater budgetary freedom and with
greater powers in certain areas to protect the integrity of
the election will bring the election process closer to an
international standard. Nonetheless, the NEC is improving
its performance and this greater impartiality translates into
more political freedoms for parties and their supporters, as
well as a more nearly fair election process. Although a
majority of the members on the NEC are former CPP members
(all members must resign from party and government
positions), the electoral body also has some savvy former
opposition party members and, as a group, they appear intent
on a path to achieve a more neutral stance. However the
legal and budgetary framework of the NEC's operation does not
permit it the independence it requires.

5. (SBU) On election day, if a well-conducted NICFEC Sample
Based Observation study is any indication, the overwhelming
majority of Cambodians went to the polls, only a minuscule
percentage seemed to have been under pressure, the sanctity
of the secret ballot was preserved, and the voters made
well-informed choices about their next leaders. For these
reasons, post recommends our evaluation reflect some of the
advances made over both the 2007 Commune Council and 2003
National Assembly elections. Given the absence of concrete
evidence that alleged irregularities were significant or
widespread, and given our own observations that

PHNOM PENH 00000630 002 OF 003


irregularities occurred in a small fraction of cases, we
conclude that the election was largely equitably conducted.

6. (SBU) Post proposes the following language in our
evaluation of the Cambodian election.

BEGIN TEXT OF PROPOSED ELECTION EVALUATION:

The Cambodian election for members to the National Assembly
on July 27, 2008, was freer than any previously held election
and the vast majority of Cambodia's registered voters were
able to express their will in a more open atmosphere than
before. Although some significant irregularities persist,
they were relatively low in number and they do not appear to
have affected the outcome or to have distorted the will of
the Cambodian people, who have chosen representatives from
five different parties to serve them in the National Assembly.

A significant number of Cambodians participated in an
election day process which was conducted in a peaceful manner
with professional conduct by most polling staff and political
party agents.

International observers, including 47 teams from the U.S.
Embassy, traveled freely around the country to observe the
election, which capped a process that has generally been an
improvement over past Cambodian elections. U.S. Embassy
observers registered with the National Election Committee
(NEC) since October 2007, monitored the voter registration
process, the voter list clean-up and proposed deletions, the
registration of political parties and candidates, the
preparation and distribution of voting materials, activities
during the 30-day campaign period (in some 19 out of
Cambodia's 24 provinces and municipalities) and election day
processes (in 18 provinces).

The following observations negatively affected the election's
fully meeting international standards:

Outside the 30-day campaign period, the opposition parties'
access to television broadcasting was minimal and the CPP
dominated the airwaves. While more radio stations broadcast
more independent and opposition views, including independent
news from overseas media outlets, hindrances to their
operations persisted.

Equitable access by the parties to the media during the
30-day campaign period was better than in past elections,
especially on state-run TVK television. However, the
dominance of private TV stations, which aired little or no
news about parties other than the CPP, reflects a virtual
monopoly by the CPP of the media and imbalanced the desired
level playing field for contesting the elections.

Access by voters to their polling stations was a problem in
some areas of the country. In 75 percent of all polling
stations only a few persons could not find their names or the
location where they should vote. However, a Sample Based
Observation conducted by NICFEC showed that, in 24.9 percent
of all polling stations, five or more voters came to the
polling station but failed to find their name on the voters
list. Although this access problem represents a small
percentage of the voter population, it reflects problems with
the Voter Information Notices (VIN), the re-assignment of
voters to different polling stations from one election to the
next, and the deletion in 2007 of legitimate voters many of
whom had exercised their suffrage in four previous national
polls.

The deletion of as many as 57,000 legitimate voters from the
voter rolls during the voter list clean-up was a high price
to pay for the successful removal of over 450,000 ghost
voters from the registration list. This estimate of voters'
names deleted is based on a survey sample -- the number
deleted could be lower. The 57,000 figure would represent
between six-tenths and seven-tenths of one percent of
Cambodia's 8.1 million voters. It is noteworthy that voters
whose names were deleted were given the opportunity during a
35-day period in 2007 to review deletion lists publicly
posted and to contest the deletion. Virtually all who took
steps to protest the deletion of their names were re-instated.

The National Election Committee (NEC) should be applauded for
more active reconciliation of local election-related
complaints where possible -- through Commune Election
Committees -- and for speedy handling of all election-related
complaints which, taken as a whole, were significantly lower
than in the 2003 election. However, the legal framework for
the NEC, the limited scope of its powers, and its lack of
institutional and financial independence hamper its
effectiveness and its ability to achieve fair and equitable

PHNOM PENH 00000630 003 OF 003


elections.

Any registered voter should be able to fully assert identity
so that access to the polls is guaranteed. Although the
Royal Cambodian Government has succeeded in distributing over
100,000 national ID cards during the last year, the use of
1018 forms to assert identity during the election was a
regular occurrence and did not appear to be stringently
controlled. Abuses of 1018 forms ranged from isolated cases
of identity theft of an eligible voter, to the more
widespread illegal preparation and handing out 1018 forms on
the day of the election when these documents should have been
executed prior to election day. Evidence to date indicates
these abuses occurred on a relatively small scale in some
areas of the country and did not affect the outcome of the
election.

END TEXT
MUSSOMELI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: