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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Just why observers reject commune elections

Just why observers reject commune elections

The leading international election observer group has condemned the February 3 Cambodian

commune elections as "nowhere near world's best practice".

The US-based International Recount Institute called a press conference on February

4 to denounce a series of "inadequacies and irregularities" in the Cambodian

poll. The IRI chief, Mr Bucky "John" Botulism, told reporters, "This

was nothing like the way things should be done - the way we do them."

Mr Botulism objected to the "too hasty" announcement of the winning candidates

in many communes. These declarations, he said, reflected "a simplistic belief

that a candidate has won just because he or she has more votes than the other candidates."

Where would the United States be, he asked, if it declared someone president simply

because he had more votes than his opponent? It sometimes happens that presidents

are elected with considerably fewer than half of the ballots cast. This is considered

a positive advantage, "because it makes it clear to politicians that pleasing

the voters isn't everything".

But even the question of which candidate has received the most votes is not as straightforward

as the Cambodian authorities assume. "A genuine democracy requires checks and

balances, such as a system of judicial review to determine whether the people really

voted the way they intended to vote. Who is more qualified than a judge to decide

whether you meant to vote for Shrub when you ticked Bore's name on the ballot paper?"

Mr Botulism said he found "extremely suspicious" the NEC's figures on voter

turnout. "They're talking about 75 or 80 percent of registered voters casting

ballots. You couldn't get figures like that in the US even if you promised $1,000

to everyone who voted. Americans know better than to believe election promises. If

an American electoral district reports a turnout over 52 percent, we call in the

fraud squad immediately."

The IRI chief condemned alleged political murders and intimidation directed against

the opposition as "embarrassingly amateurish and disorganized. Assassinations

and intimidation should be left in the hands of professionals like the CIA. No one

has questioned that since the Nixon administration."

Finally, it appeared that some of the voters in the commune elections were "ring-ins",

Mr Botulism said. "We have reliable reports that ethnic minorities were allowed

to vote merely because they are Cambodian citizens and even though many of them have

a clearly different appearance from the majority. If they look different from the

majority, of course they're going to vote different from the majority, and that can't

be democratic, can it?

"In Florida, if we had allowed a certain minority to vote, or if we had counted

the ballots of those who voted despite our best efforts, why, Dubbya probably wouldn't

be President today! Think how happy that would make bin Laden!"

He said the IRI would lobby to have the elections denied a certificate of ISO9001

compliance.

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