Despite Concerns, Little Evidence of Faulty Election Ink

Three days after Sunday’s election, Cambodians who voted are still sporting a dark purple fingertip from the indelible ink that they were made to dip their fingers into after casting a vote, ensuring that they only cast one ballot.

Despite warnings from the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) on Friday that the ink could be easily washed off, there were no complaints of people trying to vote a second time during Sunday’s poll, said Koul Panha, Comfrel’s executive director.

“About double names we do not receive complaints but we remain concerned,” Mr. Panha said, adding that because the National Election Committee (NEC) has refused to allow independent election monitors to review post-election voter lists from polling stations, it would be almost impossible to identify “double voters.”

“To follow up double names is not easy because they [the NEC] will not disclose voter lists at polling stations. That’s why we are really concerned about that,” he said.

On the same morning that Comfrel held a press conference to warn of the allegedly inadequate ink, the opposition CNRP held its own conference claiming that hundreds of thousands of voters were registered in multiple locations.

Together, the two claims have made double voting among the most often cited concerns regarding alleged election fraud.

The CNRP has refused to accept the election victory claimed by the CPP and called for an independent committee to be formed to investigate irregularities in the polling process.

However, Comfrel observers in northwest Cambodia said that tests of the security ink showed that it was certainly indelible.

In Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Mondolkiri provinces, attempts to wash off the ink with readily available substances were unsuccessful, according to Devin Morrow, who worked with Comfrel as an election observer.

“Using rubbing alcohol, diesel, coarse disinfectant soap and fresh limes, our results showed that the ink did not come off of the voter’s finger,” she said in an email.

Mr. Panha said yesterday that the substance used by Comfrel in a video on YouTube to show that the ink could be easily washed off was hair-straightening liquid.

He added that Comfrel, in holding a press conference and posting the video meant only to inform the public and NEC about the possibility of cheating.

“[The warning] was to prevent any systematic intention to use the current flaws in the voter list and systemic fraud in order to inflate voter lists by using removable and indelible ink,” he said.

“It was so they could remain vigilant and observe the possibility of someone removing ink and casting double votes,” he added.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Tuesday that he knew of groups of young voters who stood outside polling stations to show people that the ink could be washed off with “chemicals,” but added that Comfrel’s claims over the indelible ink struck him as more of a publicity stunt than an actual flaw in the voting process.

“The NEC rejects Comfrel’s report. This is just Comfrel wanting to get attention by saying that ink can be cleaned by using a chemical,” he said.

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