Council Preparing to Hear Controversy on Seat Formula

Constitutional Council members are preparing to hear the controversy over the formula used to allocate seats after last month’s election, following a pledge by opposition leader Sam Rainsy to take the matter to the country’s highest appeals body. 

Members of the Council said Wednesday they hadn’t received a complaint on the matter, but noted complaints could be lodged until 5 pm today.

The National Election Commit­tee Tuesday rejected 304 complaints filed by opposition parties.

Council member Say Bory said Wednesday any examination of the alleged change would be based on the existing electoral law, ratified by legislators in May.

“We cannot create new laws, we can only look at the existing electoral law passed by the Na­tional Assembly,” he said.

Controversy over the formula erupted shortly after the elections, when the NEC informed election watchdog groups they were using the wrong system to calculate the seat allocation.                                    Critics claim the NEC has failed to prove it legally changed the formula, while NEC officials maintain they never changed the formula—only that a mistaken example of the formula was published in a draft in May.

Attempts to validate the change by reference to the “greatest majority” system specified in the electoral law have failed to convince critics, who note several different versions of the formula exist.

Say Bory said the Council would take this into account, as well as examining “how the decision on the formula was made and whether it was in accordance with the law or not.”

Despite his early criticism of the Council, Say Bory expressed faith in its ability to act neutrally.

The Council’s investigation, which must be wrapped up in 10 to 20 days, may draw on the re­sources and testimonies of other authorities such as police, political parties and the NEC itself.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, the author of the bulk of complaints facing the Council, has repeatedly refused to recognize its jurisdiction. A party spokes­man, however, said an appeal to the Council was the only re­course available to the party.

If the Council ruled against the complaint, Rich Garella, Sam Rainsy Party spokesman, said “we would reject the legality of the decision because it comes from an illegally convened body.” A positive result, however, was unlikely to raise opposition voices against the council’s legitimacy, Garella acknowledged.

“We would be prepared to go along with any decision by any body which promoted a more democratic outcome to this election,” he said.

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