The opposition yesterday stormed out of the first National Election Committee hearing that allowed the outside investigation of polling-station counts after the NEC refused to permit the cross-checking of results with the original counts.
The probe into voting counts in Kratie province also raised the ire of participating NGOs, with one monitor deeming the process “meaningless”.
The hearing marked the first time the NEC has allowed its 1102 polling-station forms to be examined by parties, which would have filled out their own counts on election day on identical 1104 forms. After the NEC refused to cross-check the vote count with original forms, however, Cambodia National Rescue Party representative Kuoy Bunroeun left the room.
“We were disappointed because the NEC did not perfectly respect the procedure of the law in which the NEC has to open the ballot boxes in order to verify the forms,” Bunroeun said after he left. “We have to examine the form 1102 in the ballot boxes as it is the starting point to see the difference between the form 1102 and 1104.”
Instead, according to NGO representatives in attendance, the election body relied solely on polling station forms drawn up in subsequent days by the higher-level communal or provincial election committees. Representatives from the Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec remained in the room, cross-checked their forms and deemed them accurate.
Comfrel monitoring officer Sin Titseiha said he was no less frustrated by the process.
“I think that the verification is meaningless if the NEC does it without opening the ballot box; they should not have worked with the copied form because it could have been a preparation [tampered with],” he said, adding that the group would be looking into it.
In a report released yesterday, the election watchdog said it had received some 9,286 cases of irregularities in the day before and on election day.
Kratie’s results are some of the most highly contested in the election, and the CNRP has maintained it is one of seven provinces in which it should have won more seats than the initial tally suggests. Today, the NEC will address complaints from Kandal, Siem Reap and Battambang – three more provinces in which the opposition party claims to have won additional seats.
Hy Rong, the director of the NEC’s operations department, assured reporters the hearing was carried out properly, pointing to the accession of the CPP and Funcinpec as proof positive of its success.
“I did my work in accordance to the law. The CNRP had filed complaints to us for resolving the problem, but the CNRP did not attend to verify its complaints and did not recognise the result of the election,” Rong said.
“The process went on perfectly, with the CPP and Funcinpec [agreeing there was] no fraud.”
Seventeen complaints have been filed by the CNRP since the NEC released its updated preliminary results on Sunday. The election body has 20 days to rectify them before final results are released on September 8.
But with its strong ruling party affiliations, it was unlikely that a thorough NEC inquiry could be counted on, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said.
“We will continue to go to their meetings [today], but we don’t expect [a different] outcome, because NEC is the tool of CPP,” Sovann said, adding that the party was still hoping an independent investigation might come together and would be discussing it when party president Sam Rainsy returns today.
The party has been pushing for a joint committee investigation that would involve NGOs and the United Nations, as well as political parties. But the CPP has maintained that it cannot carry out an investigation without the NEC’s involvement, while the NEC has repeatedly termed it “too late” to start such a committee.
In a letter sent to senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap yesterday, CNRP whip Son Chhay urged that the two parties come back to the table. In response, Yeap said meetings couldn’t go forward without the NEC’s involvement.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ABBY SEIFF