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2008 election was peaceful but flawed: EU observers

2008 election was peaceful but flawed: EU observers

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EU election monitors highlight voter registration, neutrality and the local media environment as key concerns in their final post-election report

Photo by: Vandy Rattana

EU EOM chief observer Martin Callanan presents the key findings and recommendations of the mission’s final report, released Tuesday.

THE European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM) has released its final assessment of the July 27 national election, calling on the government to address a number of irregularities it claims marred an otherwise peaceful poll.

"While the campaign was generally conducted in a more peaceful and open environment compared to previous elections, the 2008 National Assembly elections fell short of a number of key international standards for democratic elections," EOM chief observer Martin Callanan said at a news conference Tuesday.

Echoing the EU's July 29 provisional assessment, the final report notes the "lack of confidence in the neutrality and impartiality of the National Election Committee (NEC)", and concludes that there were "a significant number of mistakenly disenfranchised voters" due to the deletion of names from voter lists.

It also calls attention to the overwhelming media dominance of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which "may have undermined the ability of the Cambodian electorate ... to make an informed choice".

Among its recommendations, the report calls on the government to "take credible steps" to ensure the neutrality of the NEC at all levels and to abolish the use of Statement of Identity Form 1018, which it claims was fraudulently issued at polling stations.

Callanan also highlighted the importance of a free media environment, calling on the government to establish "an independent broadcasting regulatory authority to be responsible for the distribution of licences and frequencies to broadcast media on an open and transparent basis".

Two steps forward...

Tep Nytha, general secretary of the NEC, said he welcomed the EOM's input, but said critics should not overlook the NEC's achievements. "The July 27 election reflects another step of the development of democracy and was evaluated positively by national and international stakeholders," he said, adding that the NEC would only take time to consider recommendations that "comply with electoral law".

...and one step back

But Koul Panha, executive director of election monitor Comfrel, said the recommendations represented clear shortfalls in the election process. "The recommendations they give point to the election's problems," he said, adding that the EU involvement was in a good position to convey pressure over the conduct of the election.

"This is a very sensitive political topic," he said. "If we depend on the government's action, I don't know if anything will happen. We may need some pressure for the government to improve the electoral process."

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