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Too late for investigation: TI

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Kandal province during general elections in July
A voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Kandal province during general elections in July. Transparency International Cambodia released a statement yesterday saying the time for an investigation that could change election results had run out. PHA LINA

Too late for investigation: TI

Despite saying yesterday that it could not confidently claim the election results “accurately reflect the will of the Cambodian people”, corruption watchdog Transparency International admitted that the time for an investigation that could change those results had run out.

A transparent election investigation, TI executive director Preap Kol said, would now have to occur after a political solution was found, and instead of changing election results, should be used as a fact-finding exercise for electoral reform.

“Civil society will still stand by our demand to find the truth and the facts of what happened regarding irregularities, so we can determine the impact and use the findings as … the basis for electoral reform,” Kol said yesterday following the release of TI’s final election observation report.

“Based on the position of the Cambodian People’s Party and the legal framework that exists, [other possibilities] are exhausted.… But the opposition party can still call for whatever they want,” he said.

Cambodia National Rescue Party whip Son Chhay said yesterday that the “truth” had to be found before any political solution was possible.

“The government has not yet recognised the problem; unless they recognise the problem, they will not be able to commit themselves to any reform,” he said.

“In our talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen, he has not yet displayed any recognition that there were some serious problems in the election system.… Unless there is a proper election investigation to show to him he did not win … we can’t look into how we can share [power].”

Taking the seemingly opposite position, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that the government would only be willing to discuss such an investigation after the National
Assembly is formed.

“In the principles from the first meeting between [the leaders on Saturday], they agreed to reform the NEC.… There is nothing wrong with that,” he said.

“But first, all the lawmakers have to be seated to officially talk [about this].… The NEC is mandated by the National Assembly.”

According to the report released yesterday, TI election observers found that at 60 per cent of polling stations voters were unable to find their names on the voter list.

People were allowed to vote without valid identification at 26 per cent of polling stations, and at 11 per cent of stations, 51 or more voters cast their ballots using a temporary form called an identity certificate for election (ICE).

The most serious irregularities listed in the report largely provide voting day evidence of “large-scale disenfranchisement” caused by problems that were identified well before July 28.

These mostly relate to serious flaws in the voter list that disenfranchised up to one million, as well as the issuance of a similar amount of ICEs before an election that resulted in just a 290,000 vote difference between the major parties.

The NEC and commune councils would have to provide data including “the full voter list database, ICE distribution records and polling stations level results” after a government is formed, Kol said, something it has thus far declined to do.

NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha said that the NEC had not flat-out declined such requests from NGOs as claimed, but that such information was stuck at local-level authorities and election commissions.

“When they asked the NEC, we were too busy so we had to deny them,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA

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