Officials from the National Election Committee and the ruling party responded yesterday to allegations made by self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who publicly accused the NEC of manipulating voter lists in favour of the Cambodian People’s Party.
Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC, dismissed the accusations, levelled in a press release issued Sunday, saying that at this early stage – elections are scheduled for July 28 – he wasn’t even sure of the number of candidates. He insisted that NEC had always been open and lawful in managing past elections.
“I have not even published the ballots yet, and this is just the opinion of one person,” Nytha said.
Every candidate thinks he is a winner, and drops the blame at the NEC’s feet when elections don’t pan out, he added.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan fired back at Rainsy yesterday, accusing him of attempting to gain popularity while invalidating the 2013 elections before they begin.
Rainsy – who lives abroad to avoid a 12-year prison sentence widely considered to be politically motivated – alleged in his statement that the ruling party and the NEC had engaged in electoral manipulation, “which allows the CPP to give itself a 27 per cent start over the opposition”.
According to Rainsy, 10 percentage points of this lead comes from “phantom voters”, registered voters who are either entirely fictitious or already dead – a bloc Rainsy characterised as “an automatic reservoir of support for the ruling party”.
The other 17 percentage points, he claimed, was gained through the exclusion of “real voters who are known to be favourable to the opposition and whose names are surreptitiously removed or deemed invalid by the NEC”.
Koul Panha, executive director of the independent free-elections group Comfrel, said that while he couldn’t confirm or disconfirm Rainsy’s figures, there were major problems with elections and voter rolls.
“Some [voters], they faced problems getting into a polling place,” he said, noting that 40 per cent of eligible voters who did not vote had only abstained because they were turned away at the polls. “We interviewed them, and they said they faced some difficulty ... and they decided not to continue voting. They just came home.”
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]
With assistance from: Stuart White at [email protected]