Sunday, April 25, 2010

Election fever

With election fever hotting up in the UK I have been reminded of the elections which took place in Cambodia while I was based there.

People in the UK have been very angry recently abut corruption of politicians making false expenses claims. They have lost all faith in the system, some think they will not bother to vote because of this. The thing is, such activities of the UK government are, well, "small fry" when compared to the problems of developing countries like Cambodia. People in the UK also talk about not voting because their vote doesn't make a difference. Frankly, they can't be bothered. This all makes me cross because it shows a total disregard for the privilege of having vote in a system that is democratic enough (all things considered that is- I know there are arguments relating to the electoral system etc). You can't whinge about the elected if you haven't voted.

In Cambodia you can't even whinge about it if you have voted.... In Cambodia, people do tend to vote - Their finger dipped in black ink shows a vote has been cast. They generally vote for one political party for all sorts of reasons but not generally because of choice or the fact that they represent that person's views. It is more likley that they don't know any different, they don't realise there is a choice, they are told who to vote for by the leader of their village, they feel threatened or simply because they have been given a baseball cap or some small sum of money by that party. For example, in the recent Cambodian election one woman, I am aware of, was told by her village leader not to vote because she was too old and her opinions shouldn't count.

Perhaps if we told people in the UK that they couldn't vote they might become a bit more bothered.

There are alternative parties to the party in power in Cambodia. Like The Sam Rainsy Party.

He hasn't had it easy:
  • He sent himself to France in 2005 in self exile, following various threats made by the government to remove his parliamentary immunity - Which they did do, to him and 2 other members of the Party (one of which was were put in Cambodian military prison...)

  • On January 27, 2010, a provincial court convicted Rainsy and two villagers on charges of racial incitement and destroying demarcation posts on Cambodia's border with Vietnam. Human Rights Watch have said that the trial did not meet international standards for a fair trial.

  • The Government has repeatedly brought politically motivated cases against Rainsy in recent years.
  • His immunity as a member of parliament was lifted in February 2009 after the PM filed a criminal defamation complaint against him for accusing the PM of corruption. His party paid a US$2,500 fine.
  • Rainsy still faces a defamation complaint filed in 2009 by the Phnom Penh municipal governor after Rainsy allegedly said in a speech in May that the governor was involved in vote-buying.
  • From the time he created his political party in 1995, Rainsy has been subject to assassination attempts, threats, intimidation, criminal cases, and civil court cases. On March 30, 1997, a grenade attack on a political rally he was addressing killed at least 16 people and wounded 150. The PM's bodyguard unit has been implicated in the attack.

So its not easy being the opposition in Cambodia. Perhaps its just that party... errr well no...

In 1993, Funcinpec (another large Party - in the yellow T shirts above) won the general election, but the PM refused to give up power and a ruling partnership was agreed between the two leaders. In July 1997, the PM was behind a violent coup which ousted the then leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and forced him to leave the country. In his absence, Prince Ranariddh was found guilty of arms smuggling, but he was pardoned by the king and returned to Cambodia shortly afterwards. In the 1998 elections, Funcinpec was heavily defeated by the CPP, but allegations of electoral fraud triggered violent protests.

So register to vote! Wherever you are - At least you can....


Anonymous said...

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Oman Collective Intelligence said...

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