Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rosy JIOG verdict written two months ago

Rosy JIOG verdict written two months ago

Rosy JIOG verdict written two months ago

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

democracy."

The timing and content of JIOG's final judgment, however,

seems at odds with the comments it made itself at

election time.

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

satisfactorily."

But the JIOG now says: "It is still too early to

judge definitively on the post-election consolidation and

appeals process.

"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

intimidation.

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

reports".

The JIOG said that by coordinating 22 foreign observer

groups, it "enabled the representatives of the

international community to make a unified and consistent

statement".

"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).

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

standards".

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

further destablization."

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