The Constitutional Council yesterday said it has the power to order the National Election Committee to open the sealed documents monitors say could prove election irregularities, but stopped short of saying it would actually do so.
Election monitors have called on the NEC to open documents inside its sealed “Safety Package A” – a collection of ballots and primary polling station count forms – in order to properly cross check them against official results.
But the NEC has refused to do so, saying counts prepared at higher levels are accurate enough and there has not been sufficient evidence to open the sealed documents. In a statement released yesterday, the council said it “can decide [to order] the NEC to open some Security Packages A to make a verification”.
On Saturday, the NEC wrapped its investigation into election irregularities, deeming complaints moot, while the higher body is continuing to investigate.
Of 42 complaints filed at the council, 15 are still being investigated, according to the statement. One has been accepted thus far and the rest dismissed.
Constitutional Council spokesman Uth Chhorn told the Post yesterday that if a complaint is deemed to warrant further investigation, a hearing will be held, and that if a serious irregularity is found, Safety Package A will be ordered opened.
“It can be opened and when it is opened, the NEC would invite media to have a look,” he said, adding that the investigation of the 15 remaining complaints would likely take 10 to 20 days.
NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha said the body would abide by any decision issued by the council and insisted the Safety Packages were being kept safe in response to a written request from opposition party president Sam Rainsy.
Rainsy said yesterday he considered the council’s announcement a major step forward.
“We applaud it,” he said. “It’s why there is no point organising [a mass demonstration] now. We want to see it move ahead. This is the first sign there could be a fair and transparent process.”
On Tuesday, the opposition and ruling parties met to discuss a possible joint committee to investigate irregularities. Though an initial meeting resulted in no consensus and the latest appeared to have made little progress, Rainsy said the party was increasingly hopeful a solution could be broached.
“We also count on a parallel mechanism … it is direct [discussion] with the CPP, even though it has not led to any concrete results,” he said. “When I talked with [Interior Minister] Sar Kheng a few days ago … I was told by Sar Kheng, this would be just the first step.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL