Funcinpec: Count Election Votes Carefully

Funcinpec had a message for in­ternational election observers Thurs­day, and campaign chairman Nhiek Bun Chhay felt so strongly about it that he repeated it several times:

Don’t go home until all the votes are counted.

“We would like the international observers to pay close attention to the day of voting, and also the vote count,” he told a group of dip­lomats, election observers and journalists. “This is extremely critical to a free and fair election.”

The 1998 national elections were followed by months of confusion and sporadic violence as op­position leaders accused the CPP of deliberately delaying the vote count and stealing votes.

Although independent election observers eventually declared the 1998 election “reasonably free and fair,” the delayed vote count, coupled with the National Elec­tion Committee’s dismissal of hun­dreds of complaints of alleged ir­regularities, led to a bitter stalemate that lasted more than four months after the election.

Funcinpec doesn’t want a re­peat performance following the Feb 3 commune council elections.

“During the 1998 elections, Fun­cinpec had observers at only about 60 percent of the polling stations, and some of them were not effective. They didn’t know how to do their jobs,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said. “This time, we will have two observers in each poll­ing station, and they are very well trained.”

The party has also improved its communications equipment so party headquarters can get accurate information more quickly than in 1998.

Nhiek Bun Chhay urged donor na­tions to demand that only 6 million ballots be printed, and recommended that a permanent, nonpartisan committee be established to oversee ballot production.

In 1998, he said, 9 million ballots were allegedly printed for 5.4 million eligible voters. After the election, party officials could only find 140,000 unused ballots, which left some 3 million missing.

Nhiek Bun Chhay said he is concerned by reports that up to 5,000 militia members are still carrying guns in remote areas along the Thai and Laotian borders. He said Funcinpec was un­able to field slates in 16 communes due to intimidation by lo­cal authorities.

Funcinpec members claim lo­cal authorities have rearmed militia members this week in Udong district, Kompong Speu province, and in Kompong Thom province.

Nhiek Bun Chhay also complained that Funcinpec is having trouble airing voter education spots on state TV and radio.

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