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Ministry of Foreign Affairs Agrees on Free and Fair Election

PHNOM PENH: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a press release on July 24 defending Sunday’s National Assembly elections as democratic and legitimate. The statement highlighted things like the high voter turnout, hundreds of international observers and the inclusion of many parties on the ballot.

The ministry echoed National Election Committee figures that showed a high voter turnout this year. With almost 85% of registered voters casting their ballots, the ministry says this is the largest turnout since 2003. The ministry, the NEC and the Prime Minister have all interpreted this large voter turnout as “a clear demonstration of the vibrancy of the Kingdom's democracy, reflecting the trust of its citizens in the electoral process.”

The Cambodian government and its committees have been sure to note the failure of proposed election boycotts to affect the election outcome. The NEC reported 440,000 spoiled ballots, many of which were crossed out in protest of the NEC’s decision not to allow the opposition Candlelight Party to participate in the election, based on insufficient paperwork. So far, 44 people are being sought by authorities for posting pictures of their invalidated ballots, which under a new law passed earlier this month is punishable by fines and the suspension of voting rights and ability to run for office.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs lauded the participation of 422 international observers from organizations made up of dignitaries from 65 countries including China, Iran, Russia, Guinea-Bissau and Malaysia. Of the over 400 international observing bodies, none had any major criticism of the election and widely hailed it as free and fair. The NEC also reported 60,000 political parties' agents and 90,000 independent national observers at the more than 20,000 polling stations in the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs concluded by saying that Sunday’s election was “a true reflection of Cambodia's democratic maturity with its exceptional voter participation and its election's legitimacy as attested by the diversity of the national and international observer teams.”

The United States, the European Union, and Australia are among those who condemned the elections as undemocratic. A statement from the European Union ruled that the election was “conducted in a restricted political and civil space” and regretted the exclusion of the Candlelight Party. The United States Embassy said that following the elections, they would be imposing visa restrictions on those who undermine democracy and said they would suspend certain aid projects to the country.



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