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B’bang ballots to be examined

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, discuss the Constitutional Council’s examination of ballots during a press conference at the former Sam Rainsy Party headquarters in Phnom Penh. HENG CHIVOAN

B’bang ballots to be examined

The Constitutional Council yesterday ordered the opening of another batch of ballots and original documents, this time from eight contested polling stations in Battambang town, even as opposition members expressed doubt the council had the will to seriously investigate their complaints.

Coming a day after the examination of the “Safety Package A” of 13 Kratie provincial polling stations – which yielded an agreement between the parties that irregularities had occurred, but little else – the announcement went on to say that the Battambang packages would be opened on Wednesday at National Election Committee headquarters.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC, confirmed its receipt of the council’s order, and said that “the representative of the Constitutional Council will preside over” the examination of the documents.

However, Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy expressed scepticism in a press conference yesterday that the Constitutional Council would seriously investigate all of the polling stations addressed in the opposition’s complaints. He also maintained that the irregularities seen in the Kratie examination – where a number of packages meant to be sealed were opened – were proof of wider systematic vote-rigging.

“It is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, likening the Cambodian People’s Party to the Titanic. “The iceberg is big – but we see it as small – so when the Titanic crashed into the iceberg, it made it sink.”

“The Cambodian People’s Party, the National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council all conspired together to steal votes,” he added.

Rainsy singled out Battambang as a key battleground province, along with Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Kandal – where the CNRP missed out on winning one more seat by less than 200 votes.

Rainsy’s deputy, Kem Sokha, added that reluctance to investigate the contents of all polling stations’ safety packages could be seen as the ruling party admitting it had something to hide.

“For example, if the police try to stop a car to search it, but the driver declines, it means that the driver has a problem,” he said.

Both Rainsy and Sokha reiterated their party’s calls for wide-scale protests if the Constitutional Council’s investigation is deemed insufficiently thorough, with Rainsy saying a recent tour of the provinces had revealed “that Cambodian people do not agree with the election result”.

“We strongly insist on the establishment of an independent committee to investigate election irregularities before the release of the final election results [on September 8],” he added.

Conversely, CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun maintained yesterday that the Constitutional Council’s recent decisions to examine polls’ safety packages were evidence enough it was an independent investigative body, and said that his party would continue to monitor the investigation as an observer.

However, Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel, disagreed, saying that all parties should return to negotiations to form a joint investigative body, and that no national institution was sufficiently independent for the task.

“In our country, there is no independent institution, including the Constitutional Council and the National Election Committee,” he said. “Therefore, all parties have to meet to find a resolution to ease the political tension.”

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