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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stakeholders offer muted praise for flawed but peaceful election

Stakeholders offer muted praise for flawed but peaceful election

Stakeholders offer muted praise for flawed but peaceful election

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Despite the opposition Sam Rainsy Party's absence, a conference on the election lauds a well-managed  vote that participants say is cause for 'great optimism' for Cambodia's future

Tracey Shelton

UNDP Country Director Jo Scheuer discusses the conduct of the Kingdom’s July 27 election in Phnom Penh on Monday.

THIS year's national election continues to divide civil society groups and political parties, despite the announcement of official election results by the National Election Committee (NEC) earlier this month.

At a conference hosted by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) Monday, election stakeholders expressed cautious optimism about the conduct of the polls, but disagreed about opposition allegations of electoral fraud.

"I would like to commend all parties for contributing to what has been the most peaceful election the country has seen since 1998," said UN Development Program (UNDP) Country Director Jo Scheuer. "But some challenges remain, and it is important that we continue to work together to improve the effectiveness, transparency and overall functioning of elections in Cambodia."

Chea Cheth, a central committee member of the Cambodian People's Party, admitted the election was marred by a few irregularities, but praised the organisation of the poll. "The NEC managed the election process well, ensuring social order and security, and the 2008 election was freer than past elections," he said.

The NEC managed the election process well, ensuring social

order and security.

NEC chairman Im Suosdey also said that small irregularities were present in all elections. "It is in the nature of elections that perfection appears to be impossible," he said. "The conference will focus on [this year's] experience and aid in the planning of future [election] strategies."

While the Sam Rainsy Party refused an invitation to the conference, the Human Rights Party did not, and deputy secretary general Nghuk Vannara pressed the opposition's complaints that voter list manipulation prevented up to a million people from casting a ballot. "We found that there were many problems," he said.

SRP spokesman Son Chhay said his party had refused to attend because the CDRI conference would not take opposition complaints seriously.

"We see no point in attending this sort of workshop," he said by phone. "It is really an organisation that helps the government cover up the illegal acts of the NEC, which gave the government access to rig the election."

Both parties still plan to boycott the swearing-in of the new National Assembly on September 24.

But CDRI Executive Director Larry Strange said the 2008 election provided "clear evidence of Cambodian communities working to... prevent conflict and to promote a sustainable peace and stability".

"[It] gave me great optimism for Cambodia's future," Strange said. 

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