Citing huge polling irregularities, the opposition yesterday rejected the government’s claims the ruling party had won the National Assembly election 68 seats to 55, amid suggestions the opposition had gained nearly as much of the popular vote as its rival.
At a press conference at the Cambodia National Rescue Party office in Meanchey district, party president Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, claimed ghost voters and names missing from the list had cost them victory at Sunday’s election and called for a joint committee to be established to investigate.
“The CNRP does not recognise the result announced by the ruling CPP or the very similar NEC results,” Rainsy said.
“That’s why we require a technical working group comprising the CNRP, the CPP, the UN, the NEC and local and international NGOs to investigate and make a report about these irregularities,” he continued, adding this must happen by August 31.
“Fifteen per cent of voters – about 1.2 to 1.3 million – were unable to vote because their names were not on the list. There were also about 1 million ghost names on the voter list and about 200,000 duplicate names.”
Sokha said he believed that last figure was roughly the difference between the two parties.
“Everyone knows the National Rescue Party has to win this election,” Sokha said. “There’s been such fraud, but the difference is still only 200,000 votes. Just take away only the duplicate names used to inflate the vote and the CNRP will win.”
The result, announced by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith on Sunday night, marks a huge victory for the nascent CNRP – which was formed last year by a merger of the two opposition parties – and catapults it to a position of political power unseen by an opposition party in a decade.
Although official information from the NEC remained elusive and difficult to follow yesterday, everything pointed to a genuine two-horse race.
Transparency International released findings yesterday saying the CPP secured 48.5 per cent of the popular vote and the CNRP 44.4. With margin for error, those figures could be 46.8 per cent and 46.2 per cent respectively, TI says.
Tallies compiled by other observers, based on an NEC broadcast on TVK yesterday, have the CNRP ahead.
A representative of TVK yesterday would not elaborate on NEC results his station had aired, while NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha said he was not willing to provide or comment on figures.
“NEC has already issued a final primary result this morning,” he said. “I just know that the CPP leads.”
But Rainsy told the Post yesterday he considered many of the “main provinces” to still be in dispute.
“Those where manipulation could easily be done,” he said, when asked which provinces. “But even in Phnom Penh, many had their names deleted. You don’t have to go very far.”
The government quickly dismissed the CNRP’s proposed committee yesterday.
CPP lawmaker and National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun said the CNRP’s request was “like breaking the law”.
“If there is any irregularity, [the CNRP] has the right to lodge a complaint to the NEC – it’s the only mechanism stated in the law. We cannot legally create something like this.”
Kanharith, who called the election, said the ruling party would “follow the NEC’s decision” when it came to the CNRP’s proposal.
That decision, the NEC’s Nytha said, would be based on the law.
“Asking to establish such a committee or investigate anything is outside the mandate of the NEC. We abide by the law, and we have no authority to do this.”
Conversely, election-monitoring NGOs said they were more than willing to be part of the proposed committee.
Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, said his organisation was “ready to join any effort to investigate irregularities”.
“And we ask the NEC to disclose any information about voter lists,” he added.
When asked if Comfrel was preparing to sit down with the CNRP, he said that he welcomed complaints from “any party”.
Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), said his organisation would wait to see whether the composition of the proposed committee was neutral.
“If [so], we will support it,” he said. “But it must have the NEC, more than two political parties and NGOs.”
Philip Sen, communications officer at the office of the UN resident coordinator, said no invitation had been sent to him.
Speaking yesterday afternoon, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said his party had “so far had no response” from those it had urged to join the committee.
Supporters, for their part, said they had little doubt of what the findings would be.
While the CNRP press conference was being delivered yesterday, the number of opposition supporters swelled outside, with many awaiting further explanation of the results.
“I saw on Facebook that the CNRP had won everywhere, but when they made the announcement, it was the opposite,” Bun Seiha, 26, said. “It was a complete shock, so I came here to hear the truth.”