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Monitor scrutinises poll for irregularities

Monitor scrutinises poll for irregularities

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A voter looks for his name on lists posted outside a polling station in Prey Veng province on Sunday. Photograph: Derek Stout/Phnom Penh Post

While the main election monitor in Cambodia praised the lack of violence during Sunday’s commune elections, it also observed a host of irregularities, including the ruling party using civil servants and state media to campaign, polling sites set up in police stations and residences, and voters turned away for lack of sufficient ID.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia met yesterday at its headquarters in Phnom Penh to discuss what monitors saw in the field and release initial results of an election in which the Cambodian People’s Party once again trounced all comers.

“There are many complaints from political parties,” Koul Panha, the director of Comfrel, told reporters.

Comfrel will investigate all of them, he said, but so far it hasn’t found any polling stations where the results are unacceptable.

The monitors visited more than 800 polling stations in Sunday’s elections.

About 60 per cent of roughly 9.2 million registered voters cast ballots.

The CPP dominated the field, but Comfrel said its resources were vastly superior to opponents, and sometimes not quite legal.

“Civil servants and the army joined in the political campaign,” Koul Panha said. “The state media has been used freely by the ruling party.”

He pointed out that voters who lacked one of almost a dozen accepted forms of identification were turned back at some of the polling stations.

The lack of ID was something that Yeng Virak, head of the Community Legal Education Center, saw on Sunday when he monitored various election sites in Kampong Cham town.

He said he saw about 30 cases in the three different sites.

Acceptable identification included passports, personal and government-issued ID, and documents from the police and army.

“It’s sad, people are losing their opportunity to vote, their right to vote,” he said.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, which came in a distant second to the CPP, claimed that at least 1.5 million voters failed to cast ballots because they either couldn’t find their name at the polling station or it was spelled incorrectly.

“The SRP will not accept these results,” he said, adding that the party would push for a new make-up of the National Election Committee.

Tep Nytha, general secretary of NEC, could not be reached.

To contact the reporters on this story: Joseph Freeman at [email protected]
Vong Sokheng at [email protected]

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