Constitutional Council Rejects Last of Opposition’s Complaints

The Constitutional Council of Cambodia on Friday upheld the 15th and final decision by the National Election Committee (NEC) to reject every one of the opposition CNRP’s complaints related to voting irregularities during the July 28 national election.

Though the NEC has already issued preliminary election results giving victory to the ruling CPP, the CNRP is also claiming victory and demanding an independent investigation of the vote.

At the hearing at the Constitutional Council’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday, opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang stormed out of the meeting mid-way through in protest against the Council’s decision to reject all complaints.

“I’m leaving because we know from the past three cases that this is a show,” Mr. Chhay Eang said while walking out of the hearing.

“I know the decision,” he said.

As he had expected, the Council soon after his departure an­nounced that it was upholding the NEC’s decision from last month to reject the CNRP’s complaint from Kandal province, which claimed irregularities at 199 local polling stations.

“The Constitutional Council has decided to uphold the Na­tional Election Committee’s decision of August 16, 2013, closing the way for complaints,” Consti­tutional Council President Ek Sam Ol said.

“The voting involved no insecurity, violence or chaos,” Mr. Sam Ol said in defense of the Council’s decision.

The CNRP needed only 166 more votes in Kandal to win an additional seat in the National Assembly.

Although the Council had ordered the opening of a few of the safety packages containing the original ballot-day records from each polling station, many of those packets were found to be already open or had been improperly sealed.

The Council subsequently instructed the NEC to punish lower level staff for failing to properly seal the packages, a move the opposition has rebuked for doing nothing to resolve its larger fears of vote tampering.

NEC member Mean Satik, who attended Friday’s hearing, welcomed the Council’s decision.

“I think the Constitutional Coun­cil made its decision based on the law and it’s correct,” he said.

With the last of the opposition’s 15 complaints now rejected by the Constitutional Council and with its final report in hand, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said the NEC was ready to an­nounce its final election results as scheduled.

“The NEC accepted the letter from the Constitutional Council already,” Mr. Nytha said.

“The Constitutional Council has solved each case, so the NEC will announce the official results on September 8,” he said.

Those results are all but certain to mirror the NEC’s preliminary results from last month, which awarded 68 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats to the ruling CPP and the remaining 55 seats to the opposition.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the Council’s latest decision only confirmed the opposition’s long-standing claim that the Council and the NEC were both in league with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP to push through the election win.

Though the government denies it, human rights groups, election monitors and the U.N.’s human rights envoy to Cambodia have all said the NEC lacks the necessary independence to do its job fairly.

“Today we understand clearly that the CPP, NEC and CCC [Constitutional Council] is one. They are all together CPP,” Mr. Sovann said.

The CNRP said it would now go ahead with its plans to sue the NEC in court but did not specify when.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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