Civil Society Organizations to Push for Electoral Overhaul

As the dispute over July’s national election enters its fourth month, a civil society umbrella organization, the Electoral Reform Alliance (ERA), is due to release a comprehensive report on widespread irregularities recorded during the ballot.

The report will be followed by the drafting of a proposed law to regulate elections, and a grassroots campaign to rally support for voting reforms, Laura Thornton, resident director of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute, which is part of the alliance, said Monday.

“This will tap into some of the un­happiness over the election results and actually create a grassroots demand for reform, and will feed nicely into government pledges to make reforms,” said Ms. Thornton, adding that investigations conducted by the ERA would be used to improve the electoral system for future elections, not to change the results of this year’s election.

While the CPP officially won 68 of 123 parliamentary seats, the opposition CNRP has claimed they were cheated of victory due to massive fraud and have demanded an investigation into the vote. They are refusing to take their seats in parliament.

The CPP committed in principal to electoral reforms after top-level negotiations with the opposition last month, but have yet to outline what these will entail. An election reform seminar is planned by the ruling party in December.

Ms. Thornton said that ERA, which also includes the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia and Transparency International Cambodia, would be pushing for the “complete overhaul” of the electoral system.

“From our viewpoint, we are talking about a complete overhaul: rewriting election laws, revamping the NEC [National Election Committee]. I am not sure if the government is on the same wavelength, but these are not new ideas, they have all been recommended before.”

An excerpt from the ERA’s forthcoming report says that a high number of disenfranchised voters combined with the issuance of more than 1 million Identification Certificates for Elections (ICEs), which are distributed by mainly CPP-loyal local officials, piqued concern that the result of July’s election may not have reflected the will of voters, as had been forewarned by election monitors.

“As such, on election day the warnings became reality, as eligible citizens with accurate identification were turned away from the polls, while at the same time busloads of people unknown by the community were trucked to poll­ing stations to vote using no identification or ICEs,” the report states.

“If those large numbers of disenfranchised citizens had been allowed to vote and if illegal voting had been prevented, it is unclear what the true election result would have been.”

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