The national elections last Sunday were a profound and pivotal moment in Cambodia’s development as a democratic nation. During the campaign period and on election day, the Cambodian people demonstrated their determination to play a leading role in making their nation’s democracy stronger and more meaningful. Now, after the excitement of the elections, they remain engaged and passionate about the future of their country. This passion is reflected in the many questions I have received regarding U.S. reaction to Cambodia’s electoral process and the outcome of the elections.
First I’d like to commend the Cambodian people for their active and peaceful participation in these historic elections. On voting day, the political parties set a responsible tone by calling for a calm and secure environment, and party supporters on the whole complied with these appeals. As the process to certify the election results continues, I urge all parties and their supporters to continue to act in an orderly and peaceful manner.
Cambodians should be proud that the national elections showed the world how seriously they take their right to freely choose their elected officials. Unfortunately, there have been reports of voting irregularities that have led some to question the results. Therefore, the United States supports a full and transparent investigation of any reported irregularities. Also, to restore voter confidence in the electoral process moving forward, it is crucial to start making immediate reforms to correct deficiencies. A good starting point would be for the Royal Government to implement the important recommendations of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, such as correcting the voter registry and making the activities of the National Election Committee fully non-partisan and transparent. All democracies must continually evolve and improve, and Cambodia’s is no different. While there are always “growing pains” when making any improvements, Cambodia deserves nothing less than the freest and fairest elections possible.
Cambodians that I meet, regardless of party affiliation, tell me they want their government to be responsive to the people. They also want their elected officials to work together cooperatively and constructively to bring greater peace and prosperity to the country. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke about his desire for the parties to work together, along with civil society, to resolve the current uncertainty about the outcome of the elections. I commend him for his statement and his willingness to work across party divisions to find solutions. I believe cooperation and compromise is the right approach to set Cambodia on the right course. Once the outcome of the elections is settled peacefully, with all parties playing a constructive role, Cambodia will be in a better position than ever before to continue its path toward democracy, security, and prosperity.
As we move forward from these important elections, I want to assure the Cambodian people that the United States stands with them in their desire for a strengthened democratic process. These elections offer a unique and historic opportunity to bring about significant positive political reforms. My hope is that Cambodia’s newly elected leaders will seize this moment in history to strengthen the rule of law and human rights, make laws in a fair and transparent manner, and govern in the best interests of the Cambodian people. As the new parliament works to fulfill these responsibilities, I look forward to working with the Royal Government, along with the Cambodian people and civil society, to build upon the elections for a prosperous and lasting democracy.
As always, I look forward to reading the questions and comments you send me, in English or Khmer, at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov. You can also follow my blog at http://blogs.usembassy.gov/todd/.
William E. Todd is United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia