A day after the National Election Committee rejected all of its election-related complaints, the opposition outlined its own take on alleged election irregularities yesterday, revealing a razor-thin margin in some constituencies where, it argued, irregularities may have cost the party a seat.
At yesterday’s forum, Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, along with representation from election watchdog Comfrel, blasted the NEC’s count-verification process, particularly the body’s unwillingness to open sealed boxes containing original tally sheets in order to check them against results returned by provincial and commune election committees.
The CNRP also presented a case study in Kandal province, where its own figures show that the party was only 168 votes shy of winning seven parliamentary seats – as opposed to its current six – with Rainsy likening the NEC to a thief denying he committed a robbery while refusing to show the contents of his bag to verify it contained no stolen goods.
“This proves that [the NEC] has done a bad deed when they did not open Security Package A,” Rainsy said, referring to the sealed primary documents. Rainsy went on to reiterate threats to take to the streets if irregularities were not resolved, but said that he would first wait to sit down with the ruling party to negotiate a resolution to the issue of irregularities.
Comfrel coordinator Kong Ravine, who took part in the seminar, seconded Rainsy’s stance on the primary documents.
“To have transparency, the NEC should do what it has to in order to have confidence from the political parties and [should] open Security Package A to have verification,” Ravine said.
“If we look into the voided ballots, the NEC [should] open Security Package A to do a voided-ballot verification,” she added. “The voided ballots could be valid ballots for either party and could have made a party lose a seat.”
Independent researcher Shiro Harada, a visiting professor from Tokyo University, said that his own research had confirmed the thin margin in Kandal – though his figures put the CNRP at 166 votes shy of winning another seat – and said that the value of examining the original documents could not be overstated.
“From a technical perspective, comparison is indispensable for verification. Actually, on the day before yesterday [at the] NEC, the participants could compare the figures in CNRP’s Forms 1104 and NEC’s Forms 1102 and 1108 for some polling stations in Kandal, then some mistakes were found in the NEC figures,” he said in an email, referring to the original documents filled out in polling stations on election day by both the NEC and each party.
“Reliability of primary data is the most important thing to be verified,” he added. “In order to secure it, I would like NEC to disclose all the relevant figures of all the polling stations.”
However, NEC deputy secretary-general Sokolak Tipor said yesterday that Security Package A cannot be opened without solid evidence of serious irregularities.
“If the complaints filed by political parties do not have strong and clear evidence, the NEC would not decide to open Package A,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann maintained there had been ample evidence of irregularities, some of which the party supplied to the NEC, but said the election body was simply a “tool of the CPP”.
“We provided some of the evidence,” he said. “Even if our evidence is concrete, the NEC still rejects our complaint without reason.”
Now that the NEC has said it is too late for an independent investigative body, the party’s last option is to lodge complaints to the Constitutional Council by Tuesday. However, Sovann was not optimistic that his party would receive any different treatment from the council than it did from the NEC.
“From the beginning, we initiated to form the [independent investigative] commission, but they dragged the time, they postponed again and again, so you see they don’t want to solve the problem,” Sovann said. “So now we are approaching the last option, and now demonstrations are inevitable.
“We don’t think we’ll get a fair trial,” he continued. “The Constitutional Council is the same.”
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the party remained open to negotiations, but maintained that any discussion of irregularities would have to involve the NEC. Negotiations over the formation of a new government, however, wouldn’t require the NEC’s input, he added.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE AND CHEANG SOKHA