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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NEC finds ballots balance perfectly

NEC finds ballots balance perfectly

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

numbers.

"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,"

Schier said.

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.

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