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Council rejects complaints by SRP, Funcinpec

Council rejects complaints by SRP, Funcinpec

THE Constitutional Council ended its hearings of three election-related complaints from Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) this week, dismissing political grumbles, and ruling that the parties had broached issues which were "outside the competence" of the Council to resolve.

Son Soubert, a member of the Council, said the nine members of the body, which is the highest judicial authority governing the elections, were stretched beyond their capacity during the week-long hearings.

"I didn't understand-we didn't understand-why these complaints were made," he said, explaining that what the parties wanted was outside the law.

Funcinpec lodged two complaints. The first, heard on August 25, addressed 12 issues of a "general nature", Soubert explained. The royalists also claimed the National Election Committee (NEC) was biased towards the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), and called on the Council to dismiss the electoral body.

All 12 complaints were dismissed, while Soubert said the last should be pursued in the courts. Funcinpec's lawyers marched out of the hearing in frustration. They did not return on day two, Soubert said, despite the efforts of Council members.

"I could not understand why they walked out. They wanted us to dismiss the NEC, but that was unreasonable [and] outside of the law. I was ready to see both sides [of the story]," he said.

The second hearing, comprising five issues, included complaints about voting booths being relocated on election day, vote procurement before the election, and the intimidating and unlawful presence of commune officials near voters. All were rejected.

The third complaint, heard on August 27, was from the SRP. It too was dismissed. Soubert said Rainsy had called for a recount of votes in four communes: Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Thom and Svay Rieng. But that again fell outside the Council's mandate.

"We couldn't comply with the demands of the SRP. If we allowed a recount, it could set a precedent," he concluded.

The end of the Constitutional Council's involvement leaves the NEC as the last body to hear election-related complaints. The last 27 are scheduled to be concluded in early September.

NEC information chief, Khan Keo Mono, said the body had received 389 complaints. He said there was no time limit on hearing the cases: "Time is no problem. These complaints are outside of the election law."

The Constitutional Council spokesman, Prak Sok, said the SRP and Funcinpec had no choice but to accept the Council's ruling.

"In Cambodia, there is no law institution greater than the Constitutional Council," he said.

NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said he was satisfied with how the NEC had functioned, and its eagerness to see the final complaints dealt with and completed.

"I think [the NEC] was quite good [during the election]," he said.

Asked about the numerous complaints the body had received, Sochea conceded that, "Usually, we cannot see the dirt on ourselves".

"But it was up to the international observers to see what is right and what is wrong," he added. "Most of those with complaints were the losers anyway."

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