The leading international election observer group has condemned the February 3 Cambodian
commune elections as "nowhere near world's best practice".
The US-based International Recount Institute called a press conference on February
4 to denounce a series of "inadequacies and irregularities" in the Cambodian
poll. The IRI chief, Mr Bucky "John" Botulism, told reporters, "This
was nothing like the way things should be done - the way we do them."
Mr Botulism objected to the "too hasty" announcement of the winning candidates
in many communes. These declarations, he said, reflected "a simplistic belief
that a candidate has won just because he or she has more votes than the other candidates."
Where would the United States be, he asked, if it declared someone president simply
because he had more votes than his opponent? It sometimes happens that presidents
are elected with considerably fewer than half of the ballots cast. This is considered
a positive advantage, "because it makes it clear to politicians that pleasing
the voters isn't everything".
But even the question of which candidate has received the most votes is not as straightforward
as the Cambodian authorities assume. "A genuine democracy requires checks and
balances, such as a system of judicial review to determine whether the people really
voted the way they intended to vote. Who is more qualified than a judge to decide
whether you meant to vote for Shrub when you ticked Bore's name on the ballot paper?"
Mr Botulism said he found "extremely suspicious" the NEC's figures on voter
turnout. "They're talking about 75 or 80 percent of registered voters casting
ballots. You couldn't get figures like that in the US even if you promised $1,000
to everyone who voted. Americans know better than to believe election promises. If
an American electoral district reports a turnout over 52 percent, we call in the
fraud squad immediately."
The IRI chief condemned alleged political murders and intimidation directed against
the opposition as "embarrassingly amateurish and disorganized. Assassinations
and intimidation should be left in the hands of professionals like the CIA. No one
has questioned that since the Nixon administration."
Finally, it appeared that some of the voters in the commune elections were "ring-ins",
Mr Botulism said. "We have reliable reports that ethnic minorities were allowed
to vote merely because they are Cambodian citizens and even though many of them have
a clearly different appearance from the majority. If they look different from the
majority, of course they're going to vote different from the majority, and that can't
be democratic, can it?
"In Florida, if we had allowed a certain minority to vote, or if we had counted
the ballots of those who voted despite our best efforts, why, Dubbya probably wouldn't
be President today! Think how happy that would make bin Laden!"
He said the IRI would lobby to have the elections denied a certificate of ISO9001