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Council to have final say on poll

The final body of recourse in Cambodia’s ongoing electoral drama, the Constitutional Council, will hold a meeting today to begin disseminating decisions on 33 complaints from political parties, though opposition members are holding out little hope for a favourable ruling.

According to Constitutional Council spokesman Prom Nhean Vicheth, the council has already examined 14 of the opposition’s 32 complaints and was deliberating on their final decision, but Vicheth declined to comment on what the decisions were likely to be, or whether the other complaints would all be decided upon by the time investigations are legally required to wrap up on Wednesday. One complaint was filed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and none were filed by any of the other contesting parties.

“We finished investigating some complaints, and sent it to be examined by the members of the Constitutional Council, case by case,” Vicheth said. “I don’t know about the results. It depends on the approval of the members, and we conduct [the investigation] in accordance with the legal procedures of the Constitutional Council.”

Vicheth added that the investigations involved measures such as questioning plaintiffs and those accused, but said such measures were taken only in cases in which the council deemed it necessary.

The council had 72 hours to complete its investigation into complaints, which can be related to election results, alleged campaign malfeasance, and complaints regarding voter registration measures and voter lists. Having received the opposition’s complaints on Saturday, the council’s 72-hour window comes to a close today.

The National Election Committee on Saturday rejected the opposition’s complaints, saying that many of them didn’t warrant deeper investigation, such as opening sealed packets of original polling station documents to cross-check numbers.

CNRP lawmaker Kuoy Bunroeun said yesterday that he did not expect the Constitutional Council’s decision to be much different from the NEC’s.

“We don’t believe the Constitutional Council will make a decision favourable to our complaint, because members of the Constitutional Council were with the CPP,” Bunroeun said. “Therefore, they will decide in favour of the NEC.”

“We submitted complaints [because we] just had to follow the legal procedures, and to show the national and international communities that the Constitutional Council is still biased towards the ruling party, and to demand reform,” he added.

The party did not submit any additional evidence of its allegations to the council, Bunroeun said, but the evidence already submitted to the NEC contained specific instances of individuals finding their names duplicated or that others had voted for them, as well as specific instances of problems with forms and polling stations closing early.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, who has vowed to launch protests if the party’s complaints are rejected again, said yesterday that he did not want to comment on the council’s investigation until after today’s announcement.

“We will wait until [today] for the decision of the Constitutional Council … and then we will discuss with the voters – the people – what we will do next,” he said.

When it comes to protests, said political analyst Lao Mong Hay, “What else can they do?”

“It can put more pressure on the ruling party, and then hold the ruling party at bay, and deny its legitimacy,” he added. “Considering the mood of the opposition supporters around the country, the opposition could mobilise a lot of people. You cannot use tanks to crush people’s ideas.”

However, Mong Hay continued, the almost-universally peaceful campaign period proved that large-scale protests need not turn violent.

“There were tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of people in the streets across the country, and even rival parties were in the same street, and there was no physical violence,” he said. “Based on this past recent experience, if we can continue to have that cooperation from authorities to ensure law and order … why not repeat that kind of experience?”

Indeed, there may not be any options left from a legal standpoint, said Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitoring body Comfrel.

“This is the last one,” he said. “They have no further [avenues for] complaints.”

“The courts accept criminal cases related to the election, like fake docs or intimidation, threats. They punish individuals who have committed serious election crimes,” he continued, explaining that filing a lawsuit against a government institution isn’t possible. “[The courts] assume that the government body is perfect.”

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