THE NEC says it's all over. The opposition says it's only just begun. Will
these prove to be irreconcilable differences?
The issue of whether ballots from July's election have been properly and
completely reconciled is a matter of dispute between the National Election
Committee and the Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy parties.
The NEC released a nine-page report Oct 10, showing figures which indicate
"no discrepancies on the reconciliation of the ballots", according
to a press release.
The opposition, which has called repeatedly for investigations into numerous
counts of alleged election fraud, had been requesting a transparent reconciliation
process for two months.
The NEC said it accounted for all the valid, invalid, spoiled, destroyed,
lost and unused ballot papers, arriving at the same number of ballots 9,
073,500 it had before elections.
But the opposition is demanding an open auditing process, where the NEC
storeroom doors are opened to party agents, election observers and the media,
so that the ballots can be checked. Party officials say a mere piece of
paper with the NEC's numbers on it does not satisfy them.
"That is not what we are asking for," said Funcinpec MP and steering
committee member Pok Than. "There's a difference between what you have
on paper and what you have in storage."
While welcoming the NEC's report, the SRP noted that it was only the beginning
of a complete process, which must include independent verification of the
"Now we send a letter to request auditing, the second step," said
SRP legal adviser Ou Bun Long. "We must verify the stock with the report.
It's a normal process; you cannot audit yourself by yourself!"
Such verified reconciliation procedures are the norm in elections around
the world, according to Peter Schier, Cambodia representative of the democracy-building
Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
"Of course this is standard," he said. He said the crucial thing
to check is that the number of unused ballot papers is correct. Blocks of
papers all have serial numbers, so a monumental one-by-one count isn't necessary.
"If you arrive at less [than expected], apparently ballot papers have
been exchanged [after the vote], therefore valid ballot papers have been
thrown away and other ballot papers had been added in, for only one,"
The SRP fueled fears of disappearing ballots when it produced what appeared
to be an empty regulation ballot bag at a Sep 18 press conference. Fishermen
witnessed the bagful of ballots being dumped out in a river and buried on
a riverbank, party officials claimed.
All bags and ballots are supposed to be secure in the NEC's storerooms.
There is no indication from the NEC, often criticized for lack of transparency,
that the Oct 10 report is anything other than a final reconciliation.
NEC officials referred all questions to Secretary General Im Suosdei, who
could not be reached for comment. "[W]e could draw a conclusion that
the reconciliation of the ballots ... is certainly accurate," he wrote
in the report.
It said there were 155,288 invalid ballots against 4,902,508 valid ones,
while only 33 were unaccounted for during polling and counting. Spare and
unused papers amounted to 3,993,016.
Both opposition parties say they are sending letters to the NEC to ask again
for an open, verifiable procedure.