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Candlelight’s Battambang complaints ‘too late’

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National Election Committee (NEC) officials count ballots during the commune council elections on June 5 at a school in Koh Dach commune of Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district. Hong Menea

Candlelight’s Battambang complaints ‘too late’

The Battambang Provincial Election Commission has rejected the Candlelight Party (CP)’s 19 complaints relating to the closure of polling stations during the 5th-mandate commune council elections on June 5.

CP, the second-largest party with candidates fielded across the country, alleged that observers had been unable to witness the ballots being counted.

Sok Hing, director of the provincial election secretariat, told The Post on June 12 that the complaints had been received too late, as the law required that they be filed within three days of the polls.

He said that after the complaints were submitted, the commission immediately informed the CP that it would not be investigating the complaints, and that if they were unhappy with the decision, they could lodge an appeal to the National Election Committee (NEC), whose decision is final.

“The Candlelight Party has complained that the local authorities and NEC officials did not allow them or their activists to enter the polling stations and monitor the vote count. At that point, they were not allowed to enter as it would be in breach of the agreed procedure.

“The only people who have the right to observe the count are NEC officials and agents from the political parties who had applied ahead of the elections, and they were all there, along with some other observers who had received permission from the NEC,” he said.

CP vice-president Thach Setha told The Post on June 12 that their complaints in almost all provinces and the capital – not just Battambang – had been rejected, as municipal and provincial electoral commission officials considered each of the complaints out of date, or presented with insufficient grounds.

Some complaints had been mediated and resolved at the commune they were made, with the complaints being withdrawn. Some had been referred to the national level – NEC.

“They [commissions] always encourage us to file complaints, but as soon as we do so, they are rejected. In some places, they almost begged us to withdraw the complaints as there were too many irregularities. In others, we were told we were too late.

“We always attempted to compromise with the election commissions. Frankly speaking, I think our party is perhaps too gentle, but we believe that all Khmer are one, so we expect justice and fairness,” he said.

Sam Sokuntheamy, executive director of the NGO Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), said he had observed that some CP complaints were rejected because they were filed too late, while others involved in criminal cases were also thrown out by the NEC, because they were outside of its authority.

“Political parties have the right to file a complaint if they discover any irregularity during the elections, but if the complaint is not within the NEC’s authority, they will be rejected,” he said.

NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on June 12 that the commune electoral commissions had accepted 88 complaints related to election day and the day prior. He noted that of the 88 complaints, 32 were referred by the communes the municipal and provincial commissions and 56 were lodged by complainants directly with the commissions requesting that election officials be punished, he said.

“Out of the 88 complaints, 62 have been resolved, with the other files expected to be closed soon,” he said.

He added that 50 complaints relating to the preliminary election results had been lodged, all of which having been settled already.

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