In Lead-Up to Elections, EU Observers Give Mixed Review

The National Election Commit­tee is getting a mixed review so far from the European Union Election Observation Mission.

“Technically, I think they did well,” said Carlos Costa Neves, chief observer for the mission. But the NEC’s handling of political matters gives “reasons for concern,” he said.

Costa Neves, who is a member of the European Parliament and deputy chairman of its delegation for relations with Asean, said there has been a pattern of voter intimidation throughout Cam­bodia, and that the authors of violence or intimidation have been treated with impunity.

EU observers repeatedly found people who had been coerced by local authorities to pledge their vote with a thumbprint signature, or had their voter registration card confiscated.

“The electoral law has provisions for sanctions against those who [commit offenses], and the NEC has the responsibility to apply the sanctions,” Costa Neves said. This has not been done during the campaign, he said.

While admitting no one can say with certainty whether the kil­lings of any political candidates or activists were politically motivated, Costa Neves said, “if you can’t say definitely yes or no, the doubt exists, and if the doubt exists, it’s intimidation.”

The NEC also failed to ensure coverage of the electoral campaign in state-run newspapers and on television stations, Costa Neves said. One month of media monitoring by the EU Mission found a great deal of reporting on government activities and hardly any on the political campaign.

Costa Neves also pointed out the NEC canceled the broadcast of public debates and candidate discussions that were meant to inform the public on campaign issues and the electoral process.

In terms of logistics, the NEC has done good work, Costa Neves said. “This commune election is not one, but 1,621 elections,” he said, adding that the NEC has handled the process well from the voter registration period until now.

The EU are using 120 short and long-term observers as part of this mission, its first ever for local elections. After Sunday’s balloting, the EU Mission intends to issue a final report with recommendations to improve the electoral process. One of the recommendations will be to make the NEC a neutral and independent organization, Costa Neves said.


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