THE Joint International Observers Group (JIOG) will
acclaim Cambodia's election as a "step forward for
Cambodian democracy", according to a draft of its
final judgment obtained by the Post.
However, this draft has been finished for nearly two
months, since August 6 only 11 days after voting ended
and almost to the day thatthe electoral appeal process
began falling apart, eventually degenerating into street
riots, deaths, and an on-going political stand-off.
For reasons unknown, the report is stuck in the UN
headquarters in New York. One source said the report may
yet be altered as to be even more positive. It is not
known when it will be published.
JIOG chairman Sven Linder saying that he is now
"ex-chairman" because the JIOG has been
dissolved could shed no light on its publication date.
Linder is due to give a statement today (Oct 1), 24 hours
before he leaves the country for good, in his capacity as
European Union chief observer.
The JIOG conclusion reads, in part: "Despite
concerns at the pre-election violence which are still to
be addressed, the JIOG believes that in general these
elections were a step forward for Cambodian
The timing and content of JIOG's final judgment, however,
seems at odds with the comments it made itself at
On July 27, Linder said: "The JIOG would like to
underline that its final conclusion... will be subject to
full acceptance of the voters' verdict through
appropriate conduct in the post-election period by all
parties and subject to the vote tabulation and complaints
and appeals process being carried out
But the JIOG now says: "It is still too early to
judge definitively on the post-election consolidation and
"International observers have reported that the
administration of the recounting and appeals process has
not at this stage been well organized although they have
seen little evidence of fraud. A final judgment must
await the completion of the appeals process and the
declaration of the seats."
The JIOG's judgment, as it was written Aug 6, is almost
to the day that the National Election Committee (NEC)
closed itself down after refusing to rule on opposition
demands for 172 recounts and 110 allegations of
It predates by 15 days the grenade attack near opposition
leader Sam Rainsy; and by 17 days the beginning of the
"Democracy Square" sit-in, the ensuing riots
and, according to rights workers, at least 26 executions.
The judgment pre-dates, by nearly four weeks, the day the
Constitutional Council threw out all opposition
complaints, including charges that the formula used to
apportion seats to votes was illegally struck.
The judgment also pre-dates, by seven weeks to the day,
the purported assassination attempt on Hun Sen and the
convening of a parliament that included opposition MPs
all claiming to be "hostages" under an
international travel ban.
The JIOG says however that without itself "there
could not have been such a clear expression of consensus
from the international community and, as a result, [its
existence] avoided the danger of conflicting
The JIOG said that by coordinating 22 foreign observer
groups, it "enabled the representatives of the
international community to make a unified and consistent
"This kind of consensus is important to the
stability of the post election climate and as a basis for
political parties to make complaints based on evidence
and through the appropriate channels."
JIOG's draft judgment differs from another key electoral
observer: the US-based National Democratic Institute
NDI Asian regional director Eric Bjornlund told the US
House of Representatives on Sept 28 that "recent
events in Cambodia problems in the formation of the
government, violence in the streets... and complete
failure on the part of the electoral institutions
indicate that the overall process failed.
"Unfortunately," Bjornlund said, "the
polling and counting days now seem to have been the
aberration from Cambodia's unfortunate norm of violence,
intimidation and instability."
He said the ruling regime has little interest in
power-sharing, peaceful governance or human rights.
While large numbers of people turned out to vote in a
peaceful atmosphere something the JIOG
"applauded" as a "reaffirmation" of
the Cambodian's "resilience" and
"commitment to democracy" it all took place in
a "fundamentally flawed environment", he said.
The NDI warned, as did JIOG at the time, that final
judgment would be premature until all complaints were
successfully processed and a government formed.
However unlike JIOG Bjornlund continued: "Since the
vote, NDI's pre-election concerns about the credibility
of the bodies responsible for administering theelections
and adjudicating disputes have proved well-founded.
"Chaos and violence have marred the post-election
period," he continued, describing grenade attacks
against Rainsy and Hun Sen, and the use of force to quell
street protests that turned to riots.
The NDI said that within the JIOG "those wanting to
portray the elections in the most positive light possible
had great influence over the JIOG's assessment. In
general, it seemed that many international observers had
lowered the bar for Cambodia, indicating that the
Cambodian elections need not meet international
Bjornlund said that Election '98 "should be no model
for future elections... The new government, regardless of
its makeup or the results of ongoing negotiations, has
emerged from an undemocratic process".
The international community, he said, could pressure the
CPP to give up its stranglehold of power rather than
pressure the opposition into a coalition.
"Accepting a new government in the name of stability
in the absence of a genuinely democratic process or
addressing the climate of impunity can only lead to