Austrian far-right politicians under fire for praising Cambodian vote
Austria's foreign minister on Friday (Aug 10) distanced herself from comments made by two of her far-right party colleagues, who described Cambodia's July elections as "very professional".
Freedom Party (FPOe) MP Axel Kassegger travelled to Cambodia with Johannes Huebner, a former FPOe parliamentarian, to observe the July elections at the invitation of the Southeast Asian country's long-serving leader Hun Sen.
Hun Sen's (seen below) ruling party is expected to take all 125 spots in parliament when official results are announced next week, cementing Cambodia's status as a one-party state.
The controversial election was held without the main opposition party on the ballot after it was dissolved by a Cambodian court last year.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told Austrian news agency APA that neither she nor her ministry was aware of the two men's trip.
"At no time did we have any contact to these election observers and (access to) their opinion," she said, adding she was unsure how the invitation to them had come about.
Kassegger and Huebner have been widely criticised over what they said was a "private trip", where they met Cambodian officials.
The party of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (middle) won an estimated 100 out of 125 parliamentary seats in the recent election, in which more than 82 per cent of those registered to vote did cast a ballot.
Austria's foreign ministry has previously said that the Cambodian elections were not based on "fair and democratic principles", in line with concerns expressed by the EU, the US and non-governmental groups. Austria currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Criticism of Kassegger and Huebner has also come from a top politician from the People's Party (OeVP), which has ruled Austria since December in a coalition with the FPOe.
OeVP EU parliamentarian Othmar Karas described the pair's comment as a "provocation" that was counterproductive to Austrian and European interests.