The process of selecting provincial election committee members lacked transparency and smacked of cronyism, raising questions of the potential for Election Day arm-twisting and voter fraud, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections reported Wednesday.
The National Election Committee, which selects its provincial counterparts, failed to inform many not with the CPP and Funcinpec about the process to become involved with provincial election committees, the report stated.
The election monitor reported that spots on election committees in Kratie, Stung Treng, Takeo and Oddar Meanchey provinces were unavailable to anyone not in the two major political parties.
Committee members should have been selected for their neutrality and ability, the report said. No one from the Sam Rainsy Party was selected, even though many had applied for positions as election committee members, Comfrel reported.
Eighty-six percent of election officials in 22 provinces are previous committee members, and only 14 percent were newly selected, the report stated, which went on to question how the presence of party-affiliated members could affect the outcome of the elections.
NEC spokesman Leng Sochea dismissed much of the Comfrel report Thursday, saying the committee did its best to recruit new members. He did not dispute the facts in the report, and agreed that most of the committee members are from the CPP or Funcinpec.
However, he said, “We don’t disregard candidates from any political parties. If they have the ability, we work to recruit them.”
Leng Sochea said that if any of the committee members show political bias, they will be fired.
“Although the majority of provincial election committee are from the two main political parties, I don’t think this will be a bad influence on the elections environment because all the officers are unbiased,” he said.