Just a few percentage points separated the incumbent government and the opposition in Sunday’s poll, Transparency International reported at a press conference today, where it called for an investigation into irregularities.
The TI findings, which the organisation said were based on an accurate representative sample, come despite the Cambodian People’s Party winning 13 more seats than the Cambodia National Rescue Party, in what was essentially two-horse race.
The CPP registered 48.5 per cent of the popular vote while the CNRP took home 44.4, though with a 1.8 per cent margin for error, the difference could have been as little as .6 per cent.
TI Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said that given the closeness of the race and the number of irregularities, the outcome “does not necessarily reflect the will of Cambodian voters”.
“All this that happened was consistent with the warnings made to the NEC by independent organisations … we regret that the [National Election Committee] didn’t take any action to prevent the irregularities,” he said.
Echoing calls from the CNRP earlier today, Preap said votes should be counted transparently and recommended the formation of an independent body to investigate alleged irregularities.
But Preap stressed it was not the role of a civil society organisation to determine whether the election should be recognised or not, which he would leave to the political parties.
“We only demand justice for the people who wanted to vote and were disenfranchised.”
Anger flared and instances of violence broke out in a number of communes during Sunday’s election because of alleged instances of electoral fraud.
The irregularities highlighted included missing names from voter lists, the mobilisation of external voters to stack specific stations, the misuse of emergency voting forms and the ease with which supposedly indelible ink could be wiped clean.
NEC secretary general Tep Nytha said yesterday he did not wish to comment on the findings of election watchdogs until all complaints had been dealt with by the Constitutional Council — the procedure after the announcement of preliminary results.
“If I made any comment prior to the solution, I would be wrong,” he said.
“Whether they are accept the result or not, it is their (The CNRP’s) decision, but asking us to establish such a committee to investigate anything is out of the NEC’s mandate. We abide by the law and NEC has no authority to do so.”
But Nytha did say the NEC — like TI and fellow election watchdog Comfrel — had found a voter participation rate of about 69 per cent, which represented a sharp decline from the 2008 rate of 75 per cent.
“The number of voters increased, but it is a low percentage, because the voter list also increased,” he said.
“The reason that the number of voters declined is that many voters who had their name on the list, missed their vote as they migrated from one to another location. Some migrated to work legally in other countries and some are leaving illegal, this is the main factor.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA