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Monitoring group to boycott 'predictable' local elections

Election monitors Comfrel have said they will no longer monitor the local administrative elections in May, as they are based on ‘indirect' voting

ELECTION monitors Comfrel have announced plans to boycott upcoming local administrative elections, which will be held in May 2009, claiming the use of indirect voting means the outcome of the elections is already fixed.

In a statement released last week, the group claimed that the elections of district, provincial and municipal councils rely on "indirect suffrage". Only commune officials - over 97 percent of whom are affiliated to the ruling party - can vote.

"We knew already that these [voting] members are representatives of their political party at commune level and they will vote for their own party. It's not a free choice," the statement said.

"We know with 100 percent certainty the result of this election without even organising a vote," it added.  

Mar Sophal, head of Comfrel's Monitoring Unit, confirmed to the Post that the group would boycott.

Tep Nytha, NEC secretary general, said it made no difference whether Comfrel stays or goes.

"Retire or join the observation of the elections, it is the right of Comfrel."

SRP to still participate

Son Chhay, lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, told the Post Sunday that he was happy with the boycott but that his party would still participate in the superficial elections.  

"We will still participate [in the elections], but we will continue to fight to change this unfair law."

But Cheam Yeap, lawmaker for the Cambodian People's Party, said legality was not an issue in the indirect election process. "The election ... does not affect the legality of the elections because the commune council member represents the people and is elected by people," he said.

 "If we organise direct suffrage, we will spend more money and time, and we don't want to spend money for nothing."

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