Senate elections: a test of consistency and firmness

Senators at a session in November. Facebook
Senators at a session in November. Facebook

Editor,
Cambodia’s Senate election is to be held on February 25.

According to the Constitution, out of the 61 senators, two are to be nominated by the King, two to be chosen by the National Assembly and the remaining 57 must be elected essentially by a college of commune councillors who are themselves elected through universal suffrage at local elections.

The problem with the new Senate to be formed next Sunday revolves around the legal status of 5,007 CPP-affiliated commune councillors out of a total of 11,572 (43 percent) who are called to participate in the vote even though they have never been elected through universal suffrage: those 5,007 councillors affiliated with the ruling party were actually “given” their seats which originally belonged to 5,007 councillors affiliated with the opposition CNRP, who were duly elected at the June 4 commune elections. The seat “redistribution” immediately followed the much-decried dissolution of the CNRP on November 16.

If the Senate election is to proceed the way the CPP-led government plans it, the consequences will be as follows:

• The will of 3.05 million Cambodian citizens (representing 43.8 percent of the electorate) who voted for the CNRP at the last local elections, will be totally ignored.

• With its 5,007 elected councillors being stripped of their positions and their rights to elect senators, the CNRP will be deprived of up to 25 senator positions (out of the 57 up for grab) it is entitled to.

• By expediently and timely dissolving the CNRP and “redistributing” to itself the 5,007 commune councillor positions originally won by the opposition CNRP through universal suffrage, the ruling CPP will secure 100 percent of the 57 senator seats up for grab, which concretely announces the return to a one-party system as before the signing of the 1991 Paris Agreements on Cambodia.

The world community of democratic nations must denounce and condemn such an electoral farce, which is to be followed by another one: the legislative election due to take place on July 29 this year.

This is an important test of consistency and firmness for the international community. Those who will condone Cambodia’s February 25 Senate election are likely to condone the July 29 legislative election which is going to take place without the participation of the CNRP as the only parliamentary opposition party representing half the nation. But those who uphold democratic rules and principles will condemn both polls as undemocratic and the ensuing government as illegitimate.

Sam Rainsy
President of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement and former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party