Council Begins Deliberating Without Formula Complaint

Analysts Urge Body To Address Concern

The Constitutional Council began closed-door meetings on election complaints Monday as opposition leaders and political analysts called on it to reverse its refusal to hear a complaint about the controversial formula used to allocate parliamentary seats.  

But the Council’s president continued to insist Monday that opposition figure Sam Rainsy, whose attempt to file a complaint about the formula never made it past a clerk last week, had mis­sed the deadline for filing.

Meanwhile, a National Election Committee official admitted that clear records do not exist to show that the NEC legally adopted the new version of the formula over a previous draft. But spokesman Leng Sochea insisted the formula was legally approved on May 29 and that the problem is merely poor record-keeping.

At stake is whether the ruling CPP has won 64 seats in the National Assembly, a majority, or only 59 as it would under an earlier version of the formula included in a draft of the regulations. The opposition has questioned the legality of adoption of the second formula.

Thun Saray, first representative of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Monday the controversy over the formula is too great for the nation’s top legal body to simply ignore it.

“The Constitutional Council must receive the complaint,” Thun Saray said.

“This formula is still a controversy, and who else can decide what formula we should use for seat allocation?” he said. “If they refuse to receive the complaint, it is not according to the law, I think.”

Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said the Council should take all complaints and evaluate them on their merits. “Otherwise, conflicts could spill over into the streets.”

Nevertheless, Constitutional Council President Chan Sok insisted Monday that the opposition Sam Rainsy Party had missed the deadline.

“When Sam Rainsy complained about the seat allocation, it was past the deadline. He was late,” he said.

When asked about reports that Sam Rainsy attempted to file the complaint one hour before the deadline Thursday, only to be turned away, Chan Sok repeated, “He was definitely late at that time already.”

On Thursday, a clerk at the Constitutional Council office refused to accept Sam Rainsy’s written complaint about the formula, saying the NEC had not yet officially rejected it. Sam Rainsy Party official Ou Bun Long said Monday the NEC has failed to respond officially to many complaints filed within the 48 hours required by law.

“We think the Constitutional Council is the best one to appeal to when the NEC does not an­swer us,” Ou Bun Long said.  “Now, they look like they are helping each other not to answer us.”

The controversy over the formula erupted shortly after the July 26 elections when the NEC told election watchdogs and other observers they were using the wrong formula to project seats won by each party under the election law’s complex proportional representative system.

A refined version of the formula was adopted May 29 along with the final NEC regulations, election officials have said.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have since been questioning the legality of the second formula, demanding to see the minutes of the meeting in which it was adopted.

The NEC released minutes last week from the May 29 meeting, but they did not show a vote, only a decision to allow NEC member Chhay Kim an extra day to study language of NEC regulations.

However, Leng Sochea said Mon­day that NEC Chairman Chheng Phon signed the order approving the regulations later on May 29 after verbal approval from other members at the meeting.

“After they all agreed in principle, Chheng Phon signed the order at 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” Leng Sochea said.

Asked why the minutes did not reflect that consensus, Leng Sochea said the clerk at the meeting failed to write it down.

“The minutes of the NEC are like this. It is not so clear. I’m sorry,” he said.

Funcinpec parliamentary candidate Than Sina said his party would accept the formula if there is proof it was adopted legally.

“The formula the NEC uses to allocate seats was not approved by a decision in the meeting,” Than Sina said. “But if that formula for allocation proves to have been approved by a real decision, it can be considered a legal formula.”

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara and Jeff Smith)

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