The Shanghai cooperation organization (hereinafter — SCO or Organization) is a dynamically developing largest Trans-regional organization in the world, with an area of responsibility which is more than 60% of the entire Eurasian continent, a population of more than 3.2 billion people which is almost 44% of the inhabitants of the entire globe, and having total economic potential more than a quarter of the global GDP.
One of the most important activities of the Organization is the international monitoring of the presidential and parliamentary elections. Since 2004, the SCO has accumulated a wealth of practical experience in conducting international observations by establishing, at the invitation of the parties, 47 election and referendum observation missions in the SCO member States, observer countries and dialogue partners of the Organization.
From 25 to 29 July 2018, the Mission from the SCO monitored for the first time the preparations for and the holding of elections of deputies/members to the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, a country that has the status of a Dialogue Partner in the SCO.
The invitation to the SCO Mission to work as an international observer is regarded as the desire of the Cambodian leadership to ensure democracy, transparency and justice in the parliamentary elections in the country.
1. The Mission
In the composition of the Mission, eight (08) observers were accredited, comprising of experienced representatives of state bodies of the member States of the Organization and competent officials of the SCO Secretariat.
The mission was headed by the SCO Deputy Secretary-General, Ambassador Wang Kaiwen.
The other members included:
— Mr. Amjad Ali Sher — Ambassador extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Kingdom of Cambodia;
— Mr. Li Guangzuo — Deputy head of Department for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the people's Republic of China;
— Mr. Muhammad Jaffar-Counsellor to the SCO Secretariat;
— Mr. Daniar A. Chirkeiv — Referent of the SCO Secretariat;
— Mr. Ulugbek D. Yusubov — Referent of the SCO Secretariat;
— Ms. Feng Lianghao — Referent of the SCO Secretariat;
— Mr. Bauyrzhan A. Imandosov — Referent of the SCO Secretariat.
2. Legal framework and principles of the Mission
The mission carried out its activities in accordance with the Regulation on the SCO Observer mission in presidential and/or parliamentary elections and referendums, approved by the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO Member States in 2006, and taking into account the practice of previous international observation of elections organized over the past 14 years.
The mission conducted its work in accordance with the generally recognized principles of objectivity, political neutrality, openness, impartiality and non-interference in the internal Affairs of the state, taking into account the respect for the national legislation of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The Mission's conclusion is based on personal observations by the Mission members and information and legal materials collected in preparation for the elections and on Election Day: 29 July 2018.
3. Work carried out since the formation of the Mission
In May 2018, after receiving an official invitation from the Cambodian side, the SCO Secretary-General Mr. Rashid Alimov instructed the SCO Deputy Secretary-General Mr. Wang Kaiwen to form the composition of the Mission from the SCO and head its activities.
The SCO Secretary-General approved the concept paper of the SCO Observer Mission for the preparation and holding of parliamentary elections in the Kingdom of Cambodia in late June 2018 for the purpose of effective and organized international monitoring.
In accordance with the Concept, the Mission conducted a comprehensive analysis of electoral legislation and parliamentary elections in Cambodia.
Head and members of the Mission held a formal meeting with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen; President of the Senate, Mr. Vibol Sena Phaekdei Say Chhum; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Mr. Kralahom Sar Kheng; officials of the National Election Committee; representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; leaders and members of the regional/municipal and community (district) election commissions; voters, observers of foreign states and international organizations, as well as representatives of the media.
The mission received the necessary information and copies of electoral documents from the Cambodian electoral authorities, freely visited all polling stations, and received detailed information on the work carried out by the National Election Committee in the preparation and holding of elections in the country, as well as on the election campaign activities organized by the electoral participants. The Kingdom of Cambodia has created all the necessary conditions for the work of the Mission to fully monitor the preparation and conduct of the elections.
4. Laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia on parliamentary elections
Framework for the elections of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia consists of: the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Law on political parties of the Kingdom of Cambodia, law on the organization and functioning of the National Election Committee of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Law on elections of members (deputies) of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Royal decrees on the appointment of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the National Election Committee of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Royal decrees on the status of officials of the National Election Committee of the Kingdom of Cambodia, By-laws on the establishment and functioning of the Secretariat of the national Election Committee of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Regulations and procedures for the election of members (deputies) of the national Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia and other legal instruments.
Elections of members (deputies) of the national Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia are held in accordance with the principles of multiparty liberal democracy.
The current elections to the National Assembly have been held for the sixth time since 1993, when the first multiparty parliamentary elections were held in the country.
The date of the election is determined and announced by the Prime Minister of Cambodia at the request of the Minister of the Interior. Elections of members of the National Assembly are held only on one day: Sunday.
5. Status of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia
The Parliament of the Kingdom of Cambodia consists of two chambers: the National Assembly and the Senate.
The national Assembly consists of more than 120 deputies/members. They are elected for a five-year term by citizens of the state who have reached the age of 18 on the basis of general, universal, free, fair, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.
In the third year of every legislative term of the National Assembly, the Government of Cambodia forms a Committee to define a specific number of seats (not less than 120 seats) in the future convocation of the National Assembly. The Committee, taking into account demographic, geographical and socio-economic factors in the country, develops recommendations for the Government on the need to increase or maintain the number of seats. The government of Cambodia, on the basis of these recommendations, issues a legal act in which it determines the number of seats in the next National Assembly. This legal act is published one year before the next parliamentary elections.
In the current sixth convocation of the National Assembly, 125 seats have been designated.
Citizens of both genders who had reached the age of 25 and had acquired Khmer citizenship by birth had the right to be elected to the National Assembly.
The National Assembly of the new convocation shall commence its work (session) on the special convocation by the King after sixty days from the date of the last elections. Before the first session, the heads of the National Assembly — the President and the Deputy Presidents-are elected from among the deputies/members.
6. Organizational structure of electoral bodies
Cambodia's electoral bodies consist of a four-tier hierarchical system, which includes:
(1) National Election Committee (NEC) of the Kingdom of Cambodia;
2) Provincial / Municipal Election Commissions;
3) Commune/Sangkat Election Commissions;
4) Polling Stations Commissions.
The highest electoral body is National Election Committee of Cambodia, which is responsible for planning, organizing and managing elections throughout the country. The National Election Committee is composed of 9 members, including the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
To ensure elections, provincial/municipal election commissions, each composed of 5-7 members, were established in the provinces. Twenty five (25) regional/municipal election commissions have been established throughout the country.
Commune election commissions consisting of 5 members have been established in the districts. On the territory of the state, 1646 community-based commissions were established.
In addition, throughout the state, 22967 polling stations were established, each of which had a Commission consisting of 5 members (commission for polling station).
7. Activities of the electoral bodies of Cambodia
A number of activities have been carried out by the electoral authorities of Cambodia to ensure the success of the elections, including:
1) the National Election Committee updated the General List of voters at the end of 2017. Out of more than 16.24 million people in Cambodia, the voter list includes 8380 217 citizens of the country who have reached the age of 18 and have an active right to vote. Every citizen with the right to vote had the opportunity to check the presence of his / her name in the list of voters through the website www.voterlist.org.kh.
2) in order to simplify the search and location of polling stations on the map of the country, an electronic program was developed and launched on July 13, 2018 by the order of the National Election Committee. Every person who wished could find the address and the geographical location of any polling station, district or municipal commission through the web site www.pollingstation.org.
3) from 6 June 2018 until the end of the elections, a Call center was established for the first time under the leadership of the National Election Committee. Everyone could ask their questions about the election process and get comprehensive answers on the hotline 18002018. The Call center operated daily from 7: 00 am to 17:30 pm.
4) to raise awareness of the participants in the electoral process, the National Election Committee published various brochures, compilations and instructions, including the code of conduct for journalists during the elections, the Code of conduct for international observers, instructions for national observers and other legal documents, which have been posted on the website of the National Election Committee in Khmer, and also some documents in English, which have contributed to the comprehensive familiarization with the legislation of the country. All the latest news on the elections were also periodically published on the website of this organization.
5) fifteen (15) national television and radio stations of Cambodia dedicated their airtime for the dissemination of information about the programs of political parties. The activities of the electoral authorities were also promptly covered by local and international media. The phone numbers of all media outlets were posted on the official website of the National Election Committee.
6) special trainings and training courses were organized for members of electoral bodies and other participants of the electoral process to improve their knowledge and competence in the field of organization of elections.
8. Political parties and parliamentary candidates participating in parliamentary elections
In preparation for the parliamentary elections, 20 political parties were registered by the National Election Committee of Cambodia and 4126 candidates were nominated by these parties. Out of these, 1972 nominees were full-fledged candidates, and 2154 as reserved candidates.
The following parties took part in the election: 1) Khmer National United Party; 2) Our Motherland Party; 3) New Light Party; 4) Cambodian National Party; 5) Khmer Rise Party; 6) Beehive Social Democratic Party; 7) Grassroots Democratic Party; 8) Republican Democratic Party; 9) Reaksmey Khemara Party; 10) League for Democracy Party; 11) the Khmer Republican Party; 12) Khmer Anti-poverty Party; 13) FUNCINPEC Party; 14) Khmer Economic Development Party; 15) Cambodian Youth Party; 16) Dharmacracy Party; 17) Khmer Will Party; 18) Cambodian Indigenous People's Democratic Party; 19) Khmer United Party; 20) Cambodian People's Party.
9. National and international observers, media representatives
The National Election Committee, in accordance with local laws, completed the registration of national observers on 18 July 2018 (10 days before the elections) and of international observers on 25 July 2018 (3 days before the elections).
In the capacity of national and international observers, more than 79,000 officials from 107 non-governmental institutions and also from 20 foreign countries were accredited: India, China, Russia, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, and other countries, as well as international organizations: the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, the parliamentary members of the European Community and other associations. More than 80,000 observers from local political parties also participated.
Given that transparent and democratic elections cannot be held without the active participation of the media, more than 400 staff from 50 major national and international media outlets in Cambodia, China, Japan, Qatar, Viet Nam and other foreign countries had been accredited in the country in preparation for the elections.
10. Polling day
The voting time was determined from 07.00 am to 15.00 pm on July 29, 2018.
On the polling day, the Mission arrived at the polling stations prior to their opening, attended the preparation of ballots and the sealing of ballot boxes.
In order to ensure a representative section of the electoral process, the Mission carried out international monitoring in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
On the day of the vote, the Mission visited 133 polling stations and the municipal and commune election commissions of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The selection of the polling station was carried out by the members of the Mission independently. There were no obstacles to the visit of a particular polling station for the members of the Mission.
The mission notes the active participation of voters in the voting and professional level of training of local electoral authorities.
The organizers of the polling stations provided the necessary conditions for the implementation of the voting procedure; maintained impartiality in the voting process; provided comprehensive explanations of any emerging queries made by the voters.
The activities of the electoral bodies were efficient, transparent and independent.
At the polling stations, the voting was held in a calm manner, in compliance with the established procedures and in the presence of local and international observers, as well as media representatives.
The Mission also attended the closing of the polling stations, the counting of votes and the signing of the protocols of the electoral bodies on the results of the voting.
On the day of the vote, no complaints or comments were made to the Mission.
However, the Mission noted some instances of technical irregularities that were not widespread and which do not have an impact on the election results.
11. Main conclusions
The Mission notes that the elections of members of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia on 29 July 2018 were in accordance with the requirements of the electoral legislation of the country, met democratic standards and also objectively reflected the opinion of the people.
The Mission did not observe any violations of national electoral legislation and international obligations that call into question the legitimacy of the elections.
The Mission recognizes the elections as transparent, credible and democratic.
The Mission notes that Cambodia's parliamentary elections were an important step towards the democratization of society and the peace, stability and prosperity of the country.
The Mission congratulates the people of the Kingdom of Cambodia for successfully holding the parliamentary elections and wishes them success in strengthening their independence, sovereignty and comprehensive development.
The Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization expresses its deep appreciation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the National Election Committee of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and other organizations and institutions, for their full assistance in the conduct of its work.
The head of the Mission from the SCO,
Deputy Secretary General of SCO, Mr. Wang Kaiwen
29 July 2018