Elections and Voting Rights

Election Monitoring by NGO-CEDAW:

June 2017 is the date set for the commune elections in Cambodia and July 2018 is the date set for national elections. As it did in past elections, NGO-CEDAW will train election observers to monitor the elections and will produce an election monitoring report after each election.

Election monitoring is important to the advancement of gender equality in Cambodia because women have been under-represented in elected office and in other decision-making positions. Encouraging  the  full  participation  of  women  at  all  levels  of  democracy,  starting with voter participation and election monitoring is part of a strategy to improve women’s equal participation in the political process.  NGO-CEDAW will specifically encourage young women to attend trainings in order to promote the inclusion of women in the election monitoring process. In organizing election monitoring, we will work with youth who have smartphones and train them on using apps to electronically submit their reports on procedural issues from polling places.

NGO-CEDAW will continue to support these young activists in maintaining local networks and hold events at which they can continue to learn about women’s human rights.

Election Calendar:

The next local elections will be on June 4, 2017.  The next national elections will be on July 29, 2018.

All voters (including those who voted in the past) were required to register to vote between September 1, 2016 and November 29, 2016 for the local elections. Approximately 8 million voters were registered, but this is less than the number of eligible Cambodians.  Concerns have been raised that many migrants working overseas have not been registered to vote.  The NEC is currently permitting challenges to the new voter lists.

According to a calendar released by the National Election Committee in December 2016, Cambodian election observers must register between February 15 and May 24, 2017. International observers must register from February 15 and May 31, 2017. Political party agents (who monitor polling stations on behalf of a political party) must register by May 1, 2017.  The full election calendar is here:

NEC calendar 2017

Background on Election Laws:

In 2015, the Cambodian government passed new laws on the National Election Committee and on national and local elections.  NGO-CEDAW wrote analyses of the election laws passed in early 2015. You can read them here in English. LEMNA analysis;  NEC Analysis

This is a legal analysis of the provisions of the recently passed amendments to the Law on Election of Members of the National Assembly (LEMNA) and the law on the National Election Committee (NEC). To begin, there are numerous articles which directly conflict with the requirements of the Cambodian Constitution and with several international treaties to which Cambodia is a party, including: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.  Moreover, the draft law fails to implement recommended changes or address serious concerns raised in the UNOHCHR’s 2011 report on Cambodia’s election laws; the report states that extensive reforms are necessary for fair elections in Cambodia.  Of particular concern are: the vagueness of the law and the failure to include a section of definitions of terms used in the laws; the absence of any provision for citizens to play a role in selecting candidates for office; the requirements that all voters hold a Khmer citizenship card and also be on a voter list, rather than be in possession of a voter card; severe restrictions imposed on freedom of assembly for all Khmer and on the right to express opinions for civil society organizations and “foreigners” (who may be third generation Cambodian-born residents). Additionally, the law would potentially disenfranchise any Khmer citizen currently living abroad unless the NEC passes additional regulations to permit it. The NEC law creates conditions calculated to remove any true neutrality of its members and render them susceptible both to threats and bribery by the ruling party. The NEC law strongly favors the ruling party and imposes unreasonable restrictions on eligibility for a position on the Committee, such as the requirement that committee members not retain dual citizenship.  Given Cambodia’s recent history of persecution, it is unreasonable to penalize former refugees who retain ties abroad yet have a vested interest in Cambodia’s future. The final approval of the NEC is left to the National Assembly, its budget is controlled by the Ministry of Finance, and even its staff must be approved by the Ministry of Civil Servants.  Members of the NEC must give up any leadership role in an association, CSO, union or business (effectively removing any source of income or connection to outside life).  Rather than making them more neutral, these restrictions make NEC members much more vulnerable to efforts to control them by government or party officials.