The opposition party warned yesterday that any protests would be solely the responsibility of the National Election Committee, hours after the body released updated preliminary results confirming a ruling party win despite a pending bipartisan investigation.
The results, broadcast yesterday morning on TVK, did not include seat allocations. But calculations based on their figures show that the Cambodian People’s Party won 68 seats to the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s 55 – the same breakdown as announced by the CPP on election day.
Parties are given a 72-hour window in which to file complaints. Final results, which will include seat allocations, will be released on September 8, according to the NEC.
In a press conference held shortly after the announcement, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha slammed the body for releasing its figures before a joint investigation had been carried out.
“The leaders of the CNRP have expressed so much regret and object to the temporary results of the election being announced by the NEC at this time,” Sokha said. “The declaration, given the current situation, means that the NEC must be responsible absolutely for rebellion or protests that can cause political instability from voters who have been waiting for justice.”
On Friday, the opposition and ruling parties agreed to a joint investigation into election irregularities to be monitored by the UN and carried out by NGOs.
Representatives from both parties said yesterday that the discussions are ongoing, though there has been no meeting since and no forward motion.
Pointing to the pending investigation, Sokha said the NEC appeared to be “defying the will of the people” and driving a wedge between the two parties after the pair agreed in principle to a special inquiry.
“All these affairs are serious mistakes by the NEC,” he said.
On his Facebook page, opposition leader Sam Rainsy echoed the comments made at the conference, writing that the “quick announcement of the temporary election results by the NEC shows it seems to be under pressure by a powerful person”.
The results came two days later than originally scheduled, after the NEC said it would delay it in order to have more time to look into irregularities.
NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha yesterday defended the body’s decision, saying they held out as long as possible.
“We have no choice, because we had already delayed [by two days] while waiting for the two parties to find a resolution, but there was no success, so we can’t wait any longer,” he said.
CNRP Spokesman Yim Sovann said they were readying an official complaint against the results to be submitted shortly.
Separately, he said, the party had amassed roughly 10,000 instances of irregularities from around the country, which would not be submitted to the NEC but had been reserved “until the [joint] commission is formed”.
A coalition of about 40 NGOs, including Adhoc, Comfrel, Licadho and Transparency International, said the timing of yesterday’s results announcement had the potential to destabilise the country.
““This attitude does nothing but increase existing tension amongst Cambodia’s disenfranchised voters. During such a tense period, the announcement will obviously invite reaction and is potentially destabilising for the nation,” the statement reads.
The coalition also called on the NEC to take note of comments made by UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi last year, in which he warned that an electoral process that did not have the trust of the people risked undermining the Paris Peace Agreements and could lead to violence.
“This decision flies in the face [of] progress in negotiations between these parties,” it continues. “The consequences of such would lie with the NEC and be noted in history.”
In a fiery speech made just days before he left the country to attend his daughter’s wedding, Rainsy vowed mass demonstrations unless election results reflected a CNRP win. Interior Minister Sar Kheng then warned that the party’s leaders would be held liable for any crimes committed by protesters.
Yesterday, Kheng again warned against protests, appealing to the public to refrain from joining and blasting the CNRP for their rhetoric.
Pointing to its refusal to monitor the NEC’s verification process, which took place last week, Kheng accused the party of deliberately avoiding negotiations in favour of inflaming tensions.
“There is a huge regret that leaders of the CNRP did not participate in the open meeting and turned to propaganda, persuading people to join a mass demonstration against the result of the election, which created concern among our people,” he said in a statement.
Speaking on the sidelines of yesterday’s conference, party whip Son Chhay denied similar statements, insisting that despite Rainsy’s public remarks, the party had no intention of stoking demonstrations.
“We are the ones who have calmed them down. We say, ‘Please wait for the investigation to take place, do not do anything that would be harmful to society’,” he said.
“But the CPP and the NEC are the ones who really want to make all these problems, like the government moving all these tanks and army around to scare people. This is not going to help to calm people.”
Meanwhile, with progress on a joint resolution appearing to have stalled, the CPP took pains yesterday to remind the CNRP of its plans should the opposition boycott the first National Assembly session.
“If out of 123 lawmakers there are only 62 or 63 [we] can still hold the session and approve [laws] with only 62-63 [lawmakers present],” said senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who is also heading the ruling party delegation to the joint committee. “If they do not participate, it does not matter.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ABBY SEIFF, MAY TITTHARA AND VONG SOKHENG