Electoral/Political Party Reform: Framework for a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict

PARIS AGREEMENT

Part II. Elections

Article 12

The Cambodian people shall have the right to determine their own political future through the free and fair election of a constituent assembly, which will draft and approve a new Cambodian Constitution in accordance with Article 23 and transform itself into a legislative assembly, which will create the new Cambodian Government. This election will be held under United Nations auspices in a neutral political environment with full respect for the national sovereignty of Cambodia.

Article 13

UNTAC shall be responsible for the organization and conduct of these elections based on the provisions of annex 1, section D, and annex 3.

Article 14

All Signatories commit themselves to respect the results of these elections once certified as free and fair by the United Nations.

Annex I

Section D. Elections

1. UNTAC will organize and conduct the election referred to in Part II of this Agreement in accordance with this section and annex 3.

2. UNTAC may consult with the SNC regarding the organization and conduct of the electoral process.

3. In the exercise of its responsibilities in relation to the electoral process, the specific authority of UNTAC will include the following:

a) The establishment, in consultation with the SNC, of a system of laws, procedures and administrative measures necessary for the holding of a free and fair election in Cambodia, including the adoption of an electoral law and of a code of conduct regulating participation in the election in a manner consistent with respect for human rights and prohibiting coercion or financial inducement in order to influence voter preference;

b) The suspension or abrogation, in consultation with the SNC, of provisions of existing laws which could defeat the objects and purposes of this Agreement;

c) The design and implementation of a voter education programme, covering all aspects of the election, to support the election process;

d) The design and implementation of a system of voter registration, as a first phase of the electoral process, to ensure that eligible voters have the opportunity to register, and the subsequent preparation of verified voter registration lists;

e) The design and implementation of a system of registration of political parties and lists of candidates;

f) Ensuring fair access to the media, including press, television and radio, for all political parties contesting in the election;

g) The adoption and implementation of measures to monitor and facilitate the participation of Cambodians in the elections, the political campaign and the balloting procedures;

h) The design and implementation of a system of balloting and polling, to ensure that registered voters have the opportunity to vote;

i) The establishment, in consultation with the SNC, of co-ordinated arrangements to facilitate the presence of foreign observers wishing to observe the campaign and voting;

j) Overall direction of polling and the vote count;

k) The identification and investigation of complaints of electoral irregularities, and the taking of appropriate corrective action;

l) Determining whether or not the election was free and fair and, if so, certification of the list of persons duly elected.

4. In carrying out its responsibilities under the present section, UNTAC will establish a system of safeguards to assist it in ensuring the absence of fraud during the electoral process, including arrangements for Cambodian representatives to observe the registration and polling procedures and the provision of an UNTAC mechanism for hearing and deciding complaints.

5. The timetable for the various phases of the electoral process will be determined by UNTAC, in consultation with the SNC as provided in paragraph 2 of this section. The duration of the electoral process will not exceed nine months from the commencement of voter registration.

6. In organizing and conducting the electoral process, UNTAC will make every effort to ensure that the system and procedures adopted are absolutely impartial, while the operational arrangements are as administratively simple and efficient as possible.

Annex III. Elections

1. The constituent assembly referred to in Article 12 of the Agreement shall consist of 120 members. Within three months from the date of the election, it shall complete its tasks of drafting and adopting a new Cambodian Constitution and transform itself into a legislative assembly which will form a new Cambodian Government.

2. The election referred to in Article 12 of the Agreement will be held throughout Cambodia on a provincial basis in accordance with a system of proportional representation on the basis of lists of candidates put forward by political parties.

3. All Cambodians, including those who at the time of signature of this Agreement are Cambodian refugees and displaced persons, will have the same rights, freedoms and opportunities to take part in the electoral process.

4. Every person who has reached the age of eighteen at the time of application to register; or who turns eighteen during the registration period, and who either was born in Cambodia or is the child of a person born in Cambodia, will be eligible to vote in the election.

5. Political parties may be formed by any group of five thousand registered voters. Party platforms shall be consistent with the principles and objectives of the Agreement on a comprehensive political settlement.

6. Party affiliation will be required in order to stand for election to the constituent assembly. Political parties will present lists of candidates standing for election on their behalf, who will be registered voters.

7. Political parties and candidates will be registered in order to stand for election. UNTAC will confirm that political parties and candidates meet the established criteria in order to qualify for participation in the election. Adherence to a Code of Conduct established by UNTAC in consultation with the SNC will be a condition for such participation.

8. Voting will be by secret ballot, with provision made to assist those who are disabled or who cannot read or write.

9. The freedoms of speech, assembly and movement will be fully respected. All registered political parties will enjoy fair access to the media, including the press, television and radio.

Implementation History

1991

Intermediate Implementation

Political party reform began before the signing of the Paris peace agreement. On October 18, 1991, the ruling party in Cambodia, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), declared a formal end to more than 13 years of communism, replacing its president and embracing multiparty democracy and a free-market system.1 This could be coded as political party reform.

  • 1. “Cambodians officially end communism,” The Globe and Mail (Canada), October 19, 1991.
1992

Intermediate Implementation

In the Supreme National Council (SNC) meeting, it was unanimously decided that only Cambodians had the right to take part in the electoral process. It was decided that appropriate amendments to the draft electoral law would be drafted in accordance with the above proposals and would be discussed in the Technical Consultative Committee.2

According to a BBC News report (1992),3 a draft of the electoral law was presented to the Supreme National Council on April 1, 1992 with the following amendments--

''The right to register to vote at the election is granted to every Cambodian person who is of, or over, the age of 18 years or will attain that age during the period of registration.''

A Cambodian person is defined as

- a person born in Cambodia, with a mother or father born in Cambodia,
- a person born outside of Cambodia, with a mother (or father born) in Cambodia whose mother or father was also born in Cambodia.

''The symbol of a political party cannot be accepted for registration if it contains a portrait of His Royal Highness Prince Norodom Sihanouk”.

''Voting facilities for overseas voters are to be provided at one polling station in Europe, one in North America and one in Australia. Registration of voters is to take place exclusively in Cambodia”.

''The election campaign period is to start on the day that the (chief) electoral officer publishes the final list of registered parties and ends four days before the start of polling”.

''Any omission which would be an offence if committed during the campaign period shall also be an offence if committed before or after the campaign''.

Parties to the conflict did not agree on the amendments to the electoral law during the August 5, 1992 meeting of the SNC. Yasushi Akashi, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cambodia, used his power as stated in Annex 1, Part D, Paragraph 3A and adopted the law. The electoral law adopted a formula to provide voting rights to Cambodians, as had been stipulated in the 1954 Cambodian Civil Code. The law required that the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) prepare elections for Cambodians living abroad, prohibited the use of HRH Prince Norodom Sihanouk's picture as the symbol of a party on the ballots, and also permitted amendments of the bill in accordance with the situation.4 The Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK) opposed the draft law on the grounds that it would give voting rights to the Vietnamese.

This could be coded as reform in electoral law.

The registration of voters was to start on October 5, 1992, and 16 parties were expected to be provisionally registered.

  • 2. “Communique on 10th June Supreme National Council Meeting,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, June 16, 1992.
  • 3. “UNTAC; The Elections; The Peace Process,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 20, 1992.
  • 4. “Communique on 5th August SNC Meeting,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 15, 1992.
1993

Full Implementation

Electoral violence continued and the PDK violated the ceasefire agreement. Political parties were violating electoral law. According to a UN source cited in a Reuters report, more than a dozen leading politicians, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, were sent warning letters by UNTAC earlier in the month threatening to end their candidacies if they continued to violate electoral laws.5 The Constituent Assembly elections took place from May 23 to 28, 1993. “Mr Yasushi Akashi, head of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), yesterday (May 20, 1993) described the just-concluded election campaign as a "success" despite reports of political slayings in outlying provinces. Speaking at the last meeting of Cambodia's Supreme National Council (SNC) before the May 23-28 elections, he said the 43-day canvassing period had been conducted properly, with "remarkably little campaign-related violence". He said that more than 800,000 people attended about 1,500 rallies without a single major incident of violence” (The Straits Times, 1993).6

  • 5. “Election campaign a success, says UNTAC chief,” The Straits Times, May 21, 1993.
  • 6. Ibid.
1995

No further developments observed.

1996

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1997

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1998

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1999

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2000

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.