The Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) has learned from credible news reports that Cambodia’s Interior Ministry has been called upon to take measures against The Situation Room (a platform of over 40 nongovernmental organizations) for its election monitoring activities focused on the recent Commune Council elections. Included among those organizations is a GNDEM member, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL).
The Situation Room issued on 24 June 2017 its assessment of the Commune Council elections. That report noted the elections had significantly improved, including that polling, counting, results reporting and other processes were made more transparent than previous elections. It also offered a number of criticisms of the electoral environment, focused on pre-election factors, and concluded that elections in Cambodia cannot yet be considered free and fair, and it offered recommendations for improving elections. On 28 June, the Situation Room issued a press release reaffirming its political impartiality.
Cambodia has long recognized citizen election monitoring organizations and accredited them to observe elections. Citizens not only have a right to genuine elections, they have a right to know whether their elections are credible, and that can only be accomplished through citizen observers, the media, and political party representatives scrutinizing the various processes and factors that make up the electoral process, including the electoral environment. That requires, among other things, exercising the right of association and the freedom of expression in seeking, receiving and imparting information. GNDEM’s Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations, which is endorsed by COMFREL and 293 other organizations and networks from 93 countries and which key international organizations support, including the UN Secretariat and others, requires political impartiality and accuracy, as does the Declaration’s Code of Conduct.
GNDEM reiterates that nonpartisan citizen election observation requires respect for the freedoms of association and expression in order to conduct its vital roles in: promoting credible, peaceful elections; advancing electoral integrity; and enhancing public confidence and participation in elections. GNDEM therefore calls on the Government of Cambodia to stop pressuring citizen election monitoring organizations and their leaders. We also urge others in the international community to call on the Government of Cambodia to not pressure citizen election monitors.