Legal Experts Slam Council’s Decision
As election officials Tuesday officially declared the CPP winner of the July 26 polls, the opposition dug in, pledging to continue boycotting the formation of a new government until their complaints are answered.
The continued political deadlock and unprecedented sit-in protest sets the stage for King Norodom Sihanouk to mediate in an effort to avert a potential constitutional crisis. But no date has been set yet for such a meeting.
The National Election Committee announced the final results Tuesday evening, one day after the Constitutional Council ended the appeals process by deciding against any more recounts.
Several legal experts criticized the NEC’s and Constitutional Council’s handling of complaints. “Completely and totally inadequate,” one Western legal expert said Tuesday evening.
But one Asean diplomat called the opposition “poor losers” and said it is time to get on with forming the new government.
The final tally showed that the CPP had won 2.03 million votes, or 41 percent of the popular vote, followed by Funcinpec with 1.55 million votes, or 32 percent; and the Sam Rainsy Party with about 700,000 votes, or 14 percent.
NEC Chairman Chheng Phon signed off on a seat-allocation formula that gives the CPP 64 seats, Funcinpec 43 and Sam Rainsy 15. That means the CPP wins a majority of the 122-seat Assembly with well under a majority of the popular vote.
Most laws are passed by a majority, but two-thirds is required to form a government.
In a statement Tuesday, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and opposition figure Sam Rainsy issued four conditions for joining the new government.
They included reconciling the used and unused ballots, doing sufficient recounts so results are verified, revoting in areas where there is a slim margin or evidence of fraud, and allocating seats according to a formula used in initial NEC documents.
The first formula gives the CPP only 59 seats. The opposition contends that the NEC illegally changed the seat-allocation formula in late May.
“To participate in the formation of a government without these steps being taken would be to participate in a fraud against the Cambodian people and democracy,” according to the statement.
Separately, Sam Rainsy has called on the Council to declare the elections illegal based on the NEC’s alleged failure to legally adopt its regulations and procedures. That would mean holding a new election.
A Cambodian legal expert agreed Tuesday that the NEC’s legal process was flawed from the beginning. He also criticized the NEC for failing to rule on the seat-allocation controversy.
A Western legal expert was even harsher about the NEC’s and Constitutional Council’s performance. “It was a pathetic effort,” he said Tuesday. “It should be seen for what it was.”
He also noted both the NEC and the Constitutional Council refused to review the seat formula, “the most important complaint as far as I’m concerned.”
Tim Johnson, a member of the US-based International Republican Institute, wrote last week that the NEC’s failure to fulfill its legal responsibilities had caused Cambodians to question the electoral process. He said the Council had the opportunity to take action to restore that confidence.
Several diplomats agreed Monday the Council would have been smart to order some recounts and review the seat-allocation formula. One suggested that ruling in favor of the first formula could have been enough to persuade the opposition to end its protest and start coalition negotiations.
National election watchdogs also called on the Council to order recounts to satisfy skeptics. The NEC had conducted only eight recounts out of about 1,600 commune counting centers.
In an opinion piece published Tuesday in The Nation, a Thai daily newspaper, NEC Vice Chairman Kassie Neou advocated recounts and ballot reconciliation to “hopefully put to rest the lingering doubts about the election process.” He declined to comment Tuesday about the Council’s decision not to order any recounts.
Kem Sokha, who was chairman of the Assembly’s human rights commission, claimed the inaction by the NEC and the Council reflects the fact both serve the CPP. “Since the beginning, Hun Sen has staged a coup destined for control of the electoral process.”
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has consistently said he has no right to interfere in the activities of the NEC and Constitutional Council.
An Asean diplomat said Tuesday evening the Council’s rejection of complaints was “as expected” and the parties should start forming the new government.
“Everybody is sick and tired of the whole affair,” the diplomat said, adding the opposition are “poor losers….There’s no point in squabbling over the results.”
More important, the diplomat said, are assurances by Hun Sen that the government won’t crack down on opposition protesters. He said foreign investors are concerned about political instability.
Also, a Hun Sen adviser confirmed top CPP officials will meet the King in Siem Reap on Thursday in continued efforts to break the stalemate. The delegation includes Chairman Heng Samrin, President Chea Sim, and Vice President Hun Sen.