Election Violence Down, Complaints Up on 2008

The National Election Committee (NEC) has received almost 400 complaints related to the campaign leading up to Sunday’s national election, a marked increase on the same period in 2008, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Monday.

Mr. Nytha said that the number of complaints made to the NEC and its provincial and commune-level commissions so far was 388, and that all but about 50 have been resolved.

“The number of complaints received has been more than in 2008 because in 2008 there were only 244 complaints in the whole 30-day election campaign,” he said.

Mr. Nytha also said that despite a clash between young supporters of the CPP and Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) near Wat Phnom on Friday—which sent five CPP supporters to the hospital—the campaign has seen little violence.

“The election campaign this mandate is proceeding better. There have been a few cases of violence, but they were under control and always happen in crowds of people,” he said. “When there are youths participating, they get angry quickly…. So they yell at each other, and throw things at each other.”

Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia executive director Koul Panha said Monday that the rise in complaints and decrease in violence were linked.

“There has been an increase in complaints because now people know how to use complaints as a tactic rather than using violence,” he said. “Any problems they have, they use complaints. I think this is a new kind of commitment of the political parties.”

Mr. Panha added that complaints were also being used for more calculated reasons, with the ruling party and authorities increasingly aware of their value as a political tool.

“It has also become a tactic to have complaints against the opposition increase,” he said. “Many of the complaints are not severe. It is only about using public space,” he said.

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said Monday that his party had mostly sent complaints to the NEC about interference in its activities.

“My party has sent more than 100 complaints to the NEC, most of them involving campaign disruption,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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