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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Monitors spurn 'meaningless' Senate election

Monitors spurn 'meaningless' Senate election

The upcoming Senate election will be held amid opposition accusations of vote buying,

and without the customary monitoring of 10 local NGOs, some of which have dismissed

the election as meaningless.

"We regret that local election monitors have declined to participate in observing

the election, because they have had an important role to reflect on the whole process

of election," Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Commission

(NEC), told the Post on November 24. "NGOs are our partners and can bring all

information to us."

But Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections,

said all local election monitors have declined to send their observers to polling

stations because the election, which will be held January 22, 2006, would not be


"We found that the Senate election has no meaning for us because only the members

of commune councils and the parties' parliamentary members are allowed to vote,"

Panha said. "I think the members of the Commune Councils and Members of Parliament

will vote for their parties."

He said the local election monitoring NGOs want to see people participate in a general


"I think the system of the Senate election that the NEC is using is to make

sure that the members of the commune councils are still loyal to them," Panha

said. "Everybody knows that the election will not result in a change in the

current seats of the Senate."

Tep Nytha said that at least 11,261 members of the Commune Councils (CC) and 122

members of the National Assembly were already registered with the NEC to vote in

the election.

He said the NEC is examining the list of voters and will then send it to the Ministry

of Interior to ensure that all those on the roll still have their CC positions.

He said the primary list of voters would be announced on December 2. This leaves

15 days for voters and political parties to bring complaints to the Provincial Election

Committees (PECs), the NEC and the Constitutional Council if they find irregularities.

Nytha said the four parties registered to participate were the Cambodian People's

Party (CPP), Funcinpec, Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and a little-known Khmer Democratic

Party (KDP).

He said the NEC has decided to set up 33 polling stations in towns and provinces

across the country and is spending $450,000 on organizing the election.

The current 61 seats in the Senate would remain. Candidates will be elected to 57

seats, two senators will be appointed by King Norodom Sihamoni, and two others by

the National Assembly.

The ruling CPP has 31 seats in the current Senate, Funcinpec has 21, and the SRP

seven, with the remaining two appointed by the King.

In the commune council election held in February 2002 the CPP took the powerful commune

council chief position in all but 23 of the Kingdom's 1,621 communes.

The CPP won 68.4 percent of commune council seats, and appointed 1,598 commune chiefs.

Funcinpec won 19.6 percent of council seats but only ten commune chiefs, and the

SRP won 12 percent and appointed 13 commune chiefs.

Son Chhay, opposition parliamentarian, wrote to the NEC on November 24 that he had

received a report of vote buying.

He said the members of some commune councils were promised advance money and digital

camera-phones with which to take photos of their votes for a particular party. More

money would be paid when the photographic proof of their votes was received.

"The mobile telephone is to take a picture [to prove] that the person really

voted for the certain political party as they promised," Chhay said. "The

picture of the vote would be kept as evidence to claim the remaining money."

Keo Remy, another opposition lawmaker, said vote buying or persuasion is putting

pressure on Funcinpec and SRP council members. He added that CPP commune council

membership was already strong enough and the ruling party was just making sure its

members remained loyal.

Samrithy Doung Hak, chief of cabinet for the SRP, said the opposition expected to

increase its number of senators from seven to ten.

"Our target is the Funcinpec members of commune councils, because maybe they

no longer believe in Funcinpec's leadership since it joined with the CPP," Hak


The three-day CPP extraordinary congress, held from November 21 to November 23, resolved

that during the Senate election the party would strive to maintain a good political


In a statement, the CPP urged its 870 participants to help ensure the election was

conducted in a free and just environment.

"The Congress, at the same time, reviewed and put forth a number of principles,

in preparation for its victory in the forthcoming elections for commune/Sangkat and

the fourth term National Assembly," the statement read.

Attempts by the Post to seek comment from Prince Norodom Sirivuddh, secretary general

of Funcinpec, were referred by the prince's secretary to Sim Seak Leng, the deputy

secretary-general of the party's election campaign group.

Leng declined to comment and referred the Post to other spokespeople, who could not

be reached.



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