King urges people to vote without fear
King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday urged Cambodians to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming commune elections without fear of external pressure.
In a royal message signed on February 20 but released yesterday, he reassured the public that they will be able to cast their votes in confidence and should therefore fear no repercussions.
“The elections on June 4, 2017, are a secret, democratic electoral process so please do not worry about pressure or threats from bullies from any person or party,” the royal address read.
“All Cambodians, please utilize your right to vote and do so according to your conscience and vote for the candidate you’re confident in from any of the political parties.”
Political analyst Meas Ny said the royal address was in line with the king’s responsibility as the head of state in order to lead Cambodia towards holding free and fair elections.
“I was surprised. This is the first time which he [the king] has appealed like this,” he said.
“The appeal was made after there was a rumor that he [the King] had left for China to avoid having to sign for the amendments to the Law on Political Parties.”
He was referring to former opposition leader Sam Rainsy claiming on Thursday that King Sihamoni had gone to China to avoid approving amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which could lead to political parties being dissolved.
The amendments have been criticized by the opposition and observers as being oppressive and restrictive
to the democratic space political parties now operate in.
The National Election Committee (NEC) announced on Saturday that political parties will be able to start campaigning for 13 days starting on May 20 from 6am to 10pm. All campaigning will cease on June 3 before the polls open on June 4.
The commune elections will cost $53 million which will be taken from the national budget on top of aid from the European Union, Japan and China.
The elections will be the fourth mandate, which has been held every five years since 2002. The NEC announced last week that 12 political parties will be fielding 9,000 candidates.
In the 2012 commune elections, the CPP won 8,292 of the 11,459 seats and had 1,592 commune chiefs of the possible 1,633 seats available.
The opposition CNRP won 2,955 council seats and only 40 commune chief positions.
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