Phnom Penh (FN), June 6 — Elections are the core component of liberal democracy. Cambodia, after gaining peace in early 1990s, has regularly organized five general elections since 1993. The first commune council election was organized in 2002 to promote grassroots democracy and decentralization.

There are signs of improvement in the electoral system in the kingdom especially after years of steady reforms and international support. The local elections taking place last Sunday was another milestone in strengthening the quality of electoral democracy. More than eighty percent of the total 7.8 million of registered voters went to vote-the turn out rate was much higher than the local election in 2012 which was at only 65 percent.

From the first day of election campaign to the voting day, no major voting irregularities or malpractices have been reported. Some minor complaints related to a lack of voting materials and voters being prevented from observing vote counting at few polling stations. The results were acceptable to all parties.

The preliminary election results show that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) received 75 percent of the total commune council seats, while the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) received 29.5 percent. In terms of popular votes, the CPP got 3.5 million votes (51 percent) and the CNRP got 3 million votes (44 percent).

Compared with the general elections in 2013, the CPP gained 300,000 more votes, while the CNRP gained 90,000 more votes. It is clear that the CPP will win majority in the 2018 general elections if there is no disruption to the general political trend.

Independent international observers highly evaluate the smooth electoral process. Cambodia perhaps has a more mature and liberal democratic political system compared with other countries in the Mekong region. That is the achievement of national reconciliation, the enhancement of institutional capacity and leadership of political parties, and the unwavering support from the international community.

Cambodia is open to all international friends and partners to support strengthen democratic institution- it is the foundation of long-term peace and development. All political parties in Cambodia share common vision that for the country to develop and catch up with other Asean member countries, Cambodia must strengthen its institutional capacity and governance.

The electoral reforms have received markedly support from Japan, European Union and the United Nations. As illustrated in the recent local election, the National Election Committee has done a great job in organizing free and fair elections. Although it is not still perfect, electoral system has been improved remarkably.

The Centrist Democrats International (CDI) states that, “We welcome the use of multiparty, free, fair and regular election as a democratic means to compete for public offices has become Cambodia’s destiny.”

The Statement of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) commended the achievements of the National Election Committee in organizing a free and fair election. It says, “This year, the situation is generally calm, stable and peaceful. Political parties are more mature and they give priority to dialogue and nonviolent confrontation as a means to resolve their differences”.

Another statement by the Centrist Asia-Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI) similarly stresses “voters appeared to be more enthusiastic and happy to take part in the election process. There was no sign of intimidation, coercion and violence…Cambodia has made a lot of progress since the country fully achieved peace and stability after the transition period of the late 1990s.”

The main political parties, CPP and CNRP, have also issued their statement commending the NEC for the smooth, inclusive, free and fair elections. All agree that the election marks a significant progress in electoral democracy. It is highly expected the general election in 2018 will continue to be free and fair, while reducing certain election irregularities.

All Cambodians are the winners. Democracy benefits everyone. The future of democracy in Cambodia is bright. Although there is backsliding sometimes, Cambodia’s democracy is thriving and advancing. International support is critical to enhancing the quality of democracy in the kingdom.