The chief of the European Union’s election observers on Friday said the July 26 poll reflected the will of the people, despite the problems since the elections.
In his final statement on the eve of his departure from Cambodia, Sven Linder, head of more than 200 EU observers and chair of the UN-coordinated Joint International Observer Group, called election day a “gratifying” experience.
Despite the praise, he expressed deep concern over the “ethnic prejudices” and violent atmosphere.
“Democracy can only take root in a soil that consists of rule of law, rejection of violence as a political tool, and freedom from racial and ethnic prejudices,” he stated. “In all these respects much work still remains to be done before Cambodia’s democratic future can be seen as secured.”
Linder asserted that both polling day and counting day were “free and fair to an extent that enabled it to reflect, in a credible way, the will of the Cambodian people.”
While Linder believes the JIOG assessment, made one day after the vote, is still correct, he said the post-poll phase did not hold up to the standards adopted before by the National Election Committee and other election bodies.
The political tensions which followed the election, he said, could have been avoided if the NEC and the Constitutional Council had allowed more ballot recounting. Opposition parties should also have limited their complaints to the ones they regarded as most urgent.
He also offered suggestions on the formula used to allocate seats in the National Assembly. Although he has refused to discuss the controversy surrounding the formula, in the statement he recommended it be included in the electoral law itself rather than the NEC rules and regulations, in order to avoid “unnecessary controversies.”
The two main opposition parties have maintained that the polls were marred by fraud and intimidation, despite the positive assessment by JIOG.