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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Registration chief fired, then rehired by EU

Registration chief fired, then rehired by EU

THE European Union (EU) found time while congratulating itself over the success of

voter registration to formally sack - then reinstate - the man in charge of

the entire process.

Michael Meadowcroft, the technical head of the EU registration component, now remains

in EU employ. He would discuss neither the reasons for his sacking nor his subsequent

reinstatement.

However, for at least four days - until getting a formal letter of reinstatement

on June 26 - Meadowcroft was fighting for his job as the head of registration. Ironically,

EU Ambassador Sven Linder was at the same time lauding the results of registration

as a "satisfactory foundation for free, fair and credible elections".

Meadowcroft was told by the EU that he had not followed correct procedures in the

process, according to a senior source within the EU. He was fired in writing, although

rumor of the purge had existed for some days before the letter was delivered.

Other sources say that Meadowcroft was a victim of internal EU politics, mainly because

he violated the EU's stringent control on contact with the press.

Sources inside the Ministry of Interior compound, where the National Election Committee

(NEC) and various other EU technicians work, held polar views of Meadowcroft's dismissal

and reinstatement.

"I'm not surprised. Michael Meadow-croft wasn't worried about [the] technical

constraints [of the] process," one foreign election worker said, adding that

Meadowcroft wasn't even worried at one point that the computer center might not be

able to enter in the voter rolls in time for double checking at polling stations.

"This guy is not an election technician. He was a politician who was hired because

he was a friend of Andrew Ellis [head of preparation for the EU election team]."

Other sources allege that Meadowcroft had previous run-ins with the Bangkok-based

Ambassador and Head of Delegation for the European Commission Michel Caillouet, First

Secretary Aldo Dell'Ariccia and other influential technocrats after he attempted

to hire his own consultancy company - which includes his wife - to work on the

election.

The sources said he was also severely chastised after he spoke to the Post in March

about the technicalities of registration.

Meadowcroft's allies point out that the former British MP did exactly the job the

EU hired him for and later loudly trumpeted: completion of registration - at 90%

or higher penetration - on time and on budget.

If he had stuck strictly to the rules and not used his own judgment, registration

would neither have been done on time nor so successfully, his supporters say.

From Bangkok, Dell'Ariccia did not want to discuss the matter, saying "it is

nothing to do with the media".

Repeated questions about why Meadowcroft was initially sacked were greeted with "ask

your sources" and "I am very busy." He then hung up the phone.

An EU media spokeswoman at Bangkok headquarters, when asked to obtain comments from

Caillouet, said: "Jesus, you don't think that's a story do you?"

Replied the Post: "What? That the EU fired the man in charge of registration

just two days after saying how great the whole process was? Well yes. We do."

No comments from Caillouet were provided before press time.

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