Acting on the orders of the Constitutional Council, the National Election Committee yesterday opened the packages containing ballots and original documents used to tally votes from eight Battambang province polling stations.
In contrast to a similar examination of 13 “Safety Packages A” from Kratie on Sunday that found eight had not been sealed, all of those examined yesterday were appropriately sealed, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections confirmed.
Counting forms 1102 from two polling stations, however, which were used for official election results that have been issued by the NEC, did not have a vote count recorded, a finding that merits further investigation, Comfrel director Koul Panha said.
“I would suggest the Constitutional Council and the NEC conduct a study as to why [polling centre officials] did not write the number and why [political party officials] signed [the form] without looking at the result,” he said.
During the opening of the sealed bags yesterday, overseen by three Constitutional Council members as well as officials from both parties, the NEC simply read out results from the official forms and did not allow the opposition to cross-check numbers with their own copies, even when different tallies were announced. The NEC also read out votes on a political-party basis and did not read out the total ballots cast at each polling station nor count valid and invalidated votes, Cambodia National Rescue Party officials said.
“Your Excellency does not need to complain now. [You] can complain later. I am just doing what has been ordered by the Constitutional Council,” Hy Rong, director of operations at the NEC told CNRP representative Kuoy Bunroeun when he raised an objection.
Bunroeun later told reporters that the CNRP has asked the Constitutional Council to order the opening of 233 safety packages in 15 provinces, in order to verify results and re-count ballots.
According to state news agency AKP, packages from 12 polling stations in Siem Reap will be examined tomorrow.
Bunroeun said that the inability of political parties to contest results at the sessions proved the process was a sham.
“This is a strategy to show and to deceive the national and international [community] that changes in the election data will not affect the election results,” he said. “So I would like to say that for any figures provided, there is another different figure, and that will change the result of the election.”
He added that the NEC’s refusal to allow the CNRP to examine 1102 forms, which detail the number of ballots used at the polling stations, legitimate and illegitimate ballots cast for each party and total figures, suggested something untoward.
“If the [NEC] does not allow us [to check this], I understand that there is something clandestine [going on], because the figure that I have totalled with the figures that are on the 1102 forms that the NEC showed is different [than the figures tallied by the CNRP],” he said.
Panha from Comfrel said he could not “understand” why the NEC had refused to count valid and invalidated ballots yesterday, as they had in Kratie, as it would not “take more than a few minutes” and political parties could easily verify the count.
“I don’t know why they don’t want to read the total. It’s ridiculous to me,” he said.
He added, however, that discrepancies in the popular vote in Battambang were minor.
Shiro Harada, a visiting professor from the University of Tokyo who has been monitoring the election count, said that clear evidence of foul play is yet to be seen from the opening of the safety packages.
“Those kind of careless mistakes were also found in [Kratie] … but I couldn’t see any clear evidence of manipulation against the CNRP,” he said.
Constitutional Council member and spokesman Uth Chhorn, who attended the meeting, said that the council would continue to order the opening of safety packages from other provinces and vowed to finish doing so before final election results are announced on September 8.
“The Constitutional Council works according to the law. We are trying to do this work in order to have transparency,” he said.
The council would address any irregularities in an open hearing that will be held before results are released, he added.
CPP representative Sik Bun Hok said that no one could say any irregularities found during these examinations would affect the election results until the Constitutional Council makes a decision.