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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SRP unhappy as NEC dismisses complaints over vote-buying

SRP unhappy as NEC dismisses complaints over vote-buying

Opposition party says electoral body threw out its allegations despite

witness statements and recordings of incriminating phone calls.

THE Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) has condemned the ruling by the National Election Committee (NEC) that rejected the opposition's claims of vote-buying ahead of last weekend's voting by commune councillors in the district, provincial and municipal elections.

The SRP had asked the NEC to investigate recordings it said it had made of phone conversations between some of its councillors and three members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) in which they were offering money and positions to vote CPP.

WE HAVE WITNESSES WHOSE VOTES THEY TRIED TO BUY AND WHO RECEIVED MONEY FOR THEIR VOTES.

The party said it had also submitted several statements from SRP councillors saying ruling party members had tried to buy their votes.

SRP lawmaker Ho Vann said the NEC's decision was unjust and unfair, and added that the NEC did not even consider many of the opposition's complaints.

"We have witnesses whose votes they tried to buy, and who received money for their votes," Ho Vann said. "We have recordings proving they were asked, and witnesses saying they were paid - we would like to ask the NEC what it thinks those activities amount to? The NEC said that our recordings are inadmissible."

Ho Vann accused some SRP defectors of trying to bribe current SRP councillors to vote for the ruling party. He gave the example of Leng Phaly, a former member of the SRP's central committee.

He claimed Leng Phaly tried to meet SRP councillors promising those who voted CPP and later defected would get a district level position and an extra monthly salary of 100,000 riels (US$25).

‘Not true' says ex-SRP man

 However Leng Phaly rejected the vote-buying allegations.

"I am for the CPP in the election campaign, so I must try to persuade [councillors] to vote CPP," he said. "I explained the CPP's platform to them, but I never tried to buy votes."

The NEC secretary general, Tep Nytha, said Thursday the complaints were not reasonable since election law could not require punishment be meted out for promoting the interests of a political party.

"It is not vote-buying - it is propagandising to seek votes. The election law is special, and cannot punish anyone who talks on the phone," he said.

Tep Nytha agreed some CPP members had called the opposition, but said as the SRP had not gone to meet the CPP, any activity was limited to phone calls. And that was not enough to uphold the complaint.

Hang Puthea, the executive director of local election monitoring organisation Nicfec, said he did not know how much proof the SRP had, but said voice recordings would be insufficient.

"When rulings are handed down in disputes between the CPP and the SRP, the SRP has never won," Hang Puthea said, adding that such charges should be investigated professionally.

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