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New election ‘cannot be done’: watchdog

New election ‘cannot be done’: watchdog

Election monitor Comfrel released its final assessment of the 2013 national elections yesterday, detailing a raft of irregularities, while at the same time acknowledging that the opposition’s claims of having won the election were undermined by its reluctance to provide concrete evidence.

The 147-page report makes note of numerous examples of unfair advantages enjoyed by the ruling party – particularly in the fields of access to media, campaign financing and the misuse of state resources in campaigning – but goes on to note that Cambodia’s National Election Committee is ill-equipped to investigate irregularities.

However, although the organisation counted more than 11,400 irregularities – nearly six times the amount recorded in 2008 – the report maintains that while the Cambodia National Rescue Party “rejected the election results claiming it had won 63 seats, [it] did not provide evidence to support its claims”.

During a briefing before the report’s dissemination, Comfrel board director Thun Saray said that, given the NEC’s inability to resolve irregularities, the opposition’s current calls for a new election were counterintuitive.

“The CNRP has called for new election as soon as possible. I think that it cannot be done, because the CNRP did not recognise the result of the election, and if there was a new election, it would still be organised by the existing electoral legal framework and election system,” Saray said. “If our politicians maintain a hard line and do not sit down to find a way to walk together, our country will be in chaos in the future.”

Comfrel’s report was also unsparing in its criticism of the NEC, saying that its mechanisms “have not contributed to solve electoral disputes, but increased tensions contributing to the current electoral gridlock”, and that it had potentially disenfranchised an estimated 1.25 million voters by leaving them off voter rolls.

The government was also a target of disapproval for the “atmosphere of intimidation and fear” that prevailed both before and after the election.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, speaking to reporters at the Phnom Penh airport before departing on state trip to Vietnam, seemingly seized on the report’s assessment of the opposition’s claims, accusing the CNRP of making baseless accusations about voter fraud.

“The CNRP is heating up the situation, because it is concerned about a cool situation, which would cause the party to decline” in popularity, he said.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, however, maintained that evidence of a win is evident if one reads between the lines.

“If you pick only one figure [it should be] 1.3 million people that had the right to vote, but could not vote,” because their names were removed from the voting list, he said. “You can look at the 1.3 million and say, ‘who would have voted for CNRP?’ But if you look at who would have removed the names, it is the CPP apparatus, the commune chief and the commune clerk.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE

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