The European Union’s special representative for the Cambodian election pledged Tuesday to keep an open mind about the credibility of the polls.
“I’m not here to provide a rubber stamp to any process…judgment has to be based on the reality of what’s seen on the ground,” Glenys Kinnock, a member of the European Parliament, said at a press conference in Phnom Penh.
In answer to a question on what she would do if the EU team found the election wasn’t credible, she said: “[I would] say so.”
Kinnock, who is known for her commitment to Third World development, said her role is to assess the degree to which the elections are carried out according to international standards. She leads a team of 187 short-term observers.
Just a day after arriving in Cambodia, she expressed concern about the number of untrained and unqualified national observers registered for the polls, and about voter intimidation and media access.
“To get a full picture, we need to talk to the people,” she said. “There are still concerns, yes, and evidence of intimidation and violence and activities that shouldn’t be part of a run-up to the elections.”
But Kinnock praised the National Election Committee for starting to address the issue of observers from suspect organizations.
Kinnock said she knows people have had doubts about a credible election, but thinks time has shown the EU has been justified in staying in the process. The EU is providing $11.5 million in aid.
She reiterated previous EU comments that the voter registration period that ended last month was satisfactory.
Kinnock was asked for the minimum conditions for declaring the election credible. She acknowledged her answer would seem evasive, but that it’s difficult to issue a checklist of criteria because circumstances vary.
“The words ‘free and fair,’ I try to avoid, they are used so often as to become a cliche,” she said. Rather, she said she’s looking for an environment in which Cambodians feel like they can vote freely without outside pressure.
She said there are signs Cambodians feel that confidence, but acknowledged that there is still anxiety and tension.
Kinnock has been an election monitor in South Africa, Nicaragua, Mozambique and Namibia.