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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thumbs up (or down) for registration

Thumbs up (or down) for registration

The incumbent Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has hailed the National Election Committee's

now-completed registration process for the commune council election as a great success.

But the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, and smaller parties such as Prince Sisowath

Thomico's Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party (SJFP), have made heated public allegations

of intimidation, manipulation and fraud.

Now, after monitoring the process, a longtime election watchdog is saying both camps

are correct.

Koul Panha of the election monitoring NGO Committee for Free and Fair Election (Comfrel)

reported that the registration process did go "smoothly," but there were

incidences of intimidation, threats, vote buying and administrative harassment aimed

at preventing candidates from smaller political parties being registered.

Muth Channtha, spokesman for the fledgling Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) said the

Provincial Election Committee (PEC) and Commune Election Committee (CEC) did not

respect the working times and had not followed the rules laid out the NEC.

"There were many technical problems with the registration process, because of

the PEC and CEC demanded more documents for candidates registration than the requirement

of the NEC," Channtha said.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of NEC, said the official list of the party's candidates

will be announced on March 14-15.

"Our investigation found that some of the political parties have tried to turn

personal family issues into political motivation," Nytha said. "I think

the political environment of the election process in general has improved from last

year, and all political parties had access to information about the election process."

He said more than 100,000 candidates were registered for the commune council election,

compared with only 75,000 in 2002. Female candidates increased to 20 percent of the

total, a climb from 16 percent in the last election. For the 1,621 communes across

the country, the CPP fielded 1,620 candidates, the SRP 1,587, the NRP 1,417 candidates,

and Funcinpec, 1,407.

The process was marked by accusations from the SRP, NRP and the SJFP that the ruling

CPP had set up a network of administrative harassment to prevent the registration

of their candidates.

The SRP also accused local CPP authorities of using intimidation, threats, and vote

buying.

"We call on donor countries and all international organizations involved in

the development of Cambodia to put pressure on the government and National Election

Committee (NEC) to put an end such threats," SRP wrote on January 3.

The NEC is spending $13 million to organize commune council elections and roughly

half the budget was from donor countries. The SRP alleged that numerous cases of

vicious intimidation occurred in remote communes in Preah Vihear, Pursat, Koh Kong

and Mondulkiri provinces.

Thomico, president of the SJFP, said at a December 30 press conference that the elections

will not be free and fair because the CPP has put pressure on the opposition parties

at every stage of the election process.

"I believe the CPP would not be so strong if the ruling party played fair and

free and was transparent in the election process," Thomico said.

In a January 5 radio broadcast, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned political parties not

to threaten the nation's stability.

He said the CPP would not be "stupid" enough to make threats against other

political parties to get votes. Hun Sen said all parties should adhere to the rules

of democracy and take over power only with the support of the voters.

"Even if there are [more political parties] the election must be judged by votes;

there cannot be intimidation or violence to gain votes," Hun Sen said. "The

CPP will not commit bad deeds to get the votes."

And CPP chairman Chea Sim appealed to thousands of party members at the group's Phnom

Penh headquarters not to use violence either before or after the commune council

elections.

"I would like to appeal to compatriots all over the country to adopt the attitude

of restraint, nonviolence, mutual understanding and a spirit of solidarity; I would

especially encourage all our compatriots to go to vote on April 1, 2007," said

Sim, who is also the president of Senate, in his speech at the CPP celebration of

the 28th anniversary of the fall of Khmer Rouge.

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