UNITED NATIONS, AP -- U.N. Sec.-General Antonio Guterres implicitly criticized Cambodian elections for not being inclusive after the top opposition was not allowed register.
The Candlelight Party was the only credible opponent to the ruling Cambodian People's Party at the July elections. But the country's Constitutional Council refused last week to reverse a ban against its registration, a decision which cannot be appealed.
Stephane Dujarric, U.N. spokesperson, told reporters that the Secretary-General reiterated the importance of inclusive elections in which a variety of views and choices of voters are represented. This is important for fostering confidence in the electoral processes and enabling the Cambodian people to exercise their rights as democratic citizens.
Dujarric stated that 'as (Guterres said during his trip to Cambodia last year), it is essential to have a civic space open, to protect human rights defenders, and to allow civil society to take a larger role in the society. All of these remain crucial in maintaining Cambodia's significant development gains and consolidating peace.
He said: "The Secretary-General reaffirms U.N. commitment to support a democratic and peaceful Cambodia that respects all human rights."
Since decades, the entrenched Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has controlled almost all levels of government. Prime Minister Hunsen, an authoritarian leader in a nominally democrat state, has been in his current position for 38 year.
Hun Sen’s party and its allies, as well as small parties without a national presence, are the only ones left to run in the 23rd July elections for the 125 National Assembly members.
Hun Sen’s eldest child, Hun Manet (chief of the army), is expected to succeed his father after the elections.
Vitit Muntarbhorn (the investigator for Cambodian rights) and other U.N. independent investigators of human rights expressed concern about 'the restrictions placed on the rights of political parties to take part in elections', citing the refusal by the election committee to register the Candlelight Party on May 16.
The U.S. State Department announced that it will not send any official observers to the elections after the Constitutional Council refused the overturning of the decision made by the election committee.
Matthew Miller, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that 'contrived legal action, threats, harassment and politically motivated criminal accusations targeting opposition parties and independent media undermine Cambodia's commitments to developing as a multiparty democratic country'.
The Candlelight Party was the unofficial successor of the Cambodia National Rescue Party. This party had been a serious threat to Hun Sen’s party until it was dissolved in a controversial court decision before the 2018 election.
Hun Sen’s party won all seats in the National Assembly. Western nations declared that the 2018 elections were neither fair nor free, and responded with mild economic sanctions.
The majority of prominent opposition politicians have now self-imposed exile in order to avoid jail time for various charges that they claim are false and unfair.