July 29, 2018 was the day that Cambodians exercised their democratic rights and obligations. Overall, the election process was smooth. According to latest figures from the National Election Committee (NEC), the voter turnout rate was 82.17 percent or 6.88 million out of 8.38 million eligible voters. Shortly after the election process was wrapped up, some western countries and local critics jumped into condemning the electoral process and the election results; while some countries issued statements in support of the electoral process and the election results.
From my personal observation, I find both the critics and the proponents of the ruling party have given too much attention toward the international community’s reactions and forgot the ones who truly decided the fate of the country for the next 5 years, and those are the 82.17 percent of eligible voters who went to cast their ballots at the poll.
Also, since 1998, it’s like a broken record, every election year, the week after election day, the same countries never approve and endorse Cambodia’s election results – no matter how well the process was. Also, the main party that lost the election never concedes and accepts the results. So, this year, it is no different from any other year. The same countries that chose to not endorse past elections issued their statements to condemn this year’s results. Some critics sided with the countries that refused to endorse the results, and they passed harsh judgement and made all sort of false accusations against the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). They went on to conclude that democracy in Cambodia “was dead”. What they forgot to consider is that almost all eligible voters still believe in democracy in Cambodia, and the Cambodian public still have faith in the CPP.
For those who chose to refute this year’s election results and passed harsh criticism and arrogant views on the CPP, to me, they clearly chose to reject the voices and will of the 6.88 million voters. I would also like to remind readers a bit of Cambodia’s recent history.
In early 1990s, some western countries chose to distance themselves from the CPP and placed their cards against it, and the CPP proved them wrong. In 1998, the international community distanced themselves from the CPP and condemned the election results. Between 1998 and 2002, the CPP has worked relentlessly for the country’s economic growth and to rehabilitate the country’s infrastructure. The resulting growth rate wasn’t expected by both the local and international community. As a result, everyone benefited. The CPP clearly proved them wrong.
In 2018, some opponents of the ruling party decided not to go to the poll in protest of the electoral process.
However, the majority of Cambodian people chose to do the opposite.They went to exercise their voting right. Yet, again, the same tone of rejecting the election results was started by the same countries and the same, small group of people. They expressed their discontent and condemned the ruling party.
As we can see, people don’t learn – especially those who are determined to be CPP’s opponents. And time will prove them to be wrong – again and again.
Sothea Nim is a Cambodian living in Montreal