Elections and Voting Rights


NGO-CEDAW observer (in blue, left) watching ballot count in 2017 election

Election Calendar:

Voter registration for the next national elections has closed.  An additional 530,000 Cambodians were added to the registration list from September 1, 2017 through November 9, 2017.  The total number on the list  is now approximately 8.3 million out of an estimated 9.8 million eligible voters, or 85%.  Approximately 1 million unregistered voters are primarily migrant workers unable to travel to Cambodia to register.  Voting or registration from outside the country is forbidden.  In some areas, such as Kandal province, only 40% of eligible voters registered, in part due to high numbers of migrant workers, according to the NEC.

The national elections will be held in Cambodia on July 29, 2018.

All voters will be required to have an official Khmer ID card to vote in the national election.

No provision has yet been made to permit Cambodians working or living in other countries to vote. This affects approximately 3 million Cambodian citizens.

Several political parties were dissolved in 2017, and it is yet unclear which parties will be participating in the election.

Election Monitoring by NGO-CEDAW:

On 4 June 2017 the commune elections were held in Cambodia.  NGO-CEDAW trained and deployed almost 600 election observers to on Election Days and will produce an election monitoring report.  NGO-CEDAW will also train and deploy observers next year for the national election.  NGO-CEDAW previously conducted election observation for the 2013 national elections. The report can be read here: English version.

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.

In 2016, 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, out of an estimated 9.8 million eligible Cambodians.  Concerns have been raised that many migrants working overseas have not been registered to vote.


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.