Independent Monitors Say Election Beset With Irregularities

Election monitors said Monday that irregularities at polling stations during Sunday’s vote were widespread, and preliminary results released by the government do not necessarily reflect the true will of the electorate.

At a press conference in Phnom Penh, Transparency International (T.I.) executive director Preap Kol said findings from 906 observers in 407 polling stations around the country had shown that many voters were unable to cast a ballot on election day.

“Citizens were frustrated to find that their names were not on the voter list and this led to anger and chaos at some polling stations,” Mr. Kol said in a statement, adding that “an unusually large number” of people were able to vote with ICE forms, which are issued by commune clerks when people have no proper identification.

“Based on the incidents that happened and the quality of the voter list, the result is not necessarily reflective of the will of Cambodian voters,” Mr. Kol added.

Preliminary results from the election show that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) came away with 68 seats, 22 less than it had under the last mandate. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) attained 55 seats at the poll.

The T.I. findings show that in 60 percent of polling stations, there were people registered to vote who were unable to find their names on the lists tacked to the walls outside. However, T.I. did not say how many cases of irregularities were recorded.

“Upon seeing the irregularities, T.I. is very concerned. The issues are consistent with the warnings to the NEC [National Election Committee] by independent organizations,” he added. “T.I. regrets that the NEC didn’t address all these concerns provided to it in recommendations.”

Like the CNRP, T.I. has also called for the establishment of an independent body to investigate the cause of the irregularities and how they may have affected the outcome of the election. The CNRP on Monday also announced that it had rejected the results on the back of reports that up to 1 million people could have been disenfranchised by not being able to find their name on the voter list.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) also published the results of its preliminary count Monday and found that the CPP took 49.49 percent of the vote, to the CNRP’s 43.05. Comfrel’s findings give 67 seats to the CPP and 56 to the CNRP, one more seat to the opposition than the CPP claimed in its preliminary results.

“We need to investigate irregularities,” said Comfrel executive director Koul Panha. “The NEC should disclose some documents, especially those regarding the voter list at the polling stations.”

He could not say whether or not the irregularities had affected the outcome of the election.

Comfrel board president Thun Saray said voter turnout, at 68 percent, “is a problem, which we need to study more.”

He also pointed to Kratie prov­ince, where Comfrel estimates that the CPP gained one seat with 46.88 of the vote, while the CNRP claimed two seats with 49.96 percent of the vote. CPP figures from Kratie, which are matched by the NEC, claim the CPP won two seats with 50.1 percent of votes, compared to one seat for the CNRP with 42 percent.

“Comfrel found a different result for the CPP in Kratie province because we found that the CNRP got more voices,” Mr. Saray said.

Sam Kuntheamy, a coordinator for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said he had received reports of “many irregularities” across the country on election day.

He said he estimated that 2.5 million votes went to the CPP, with 2.2 million for the CNRP.

“It’s close,” he said, adding that he calculated the same number of seats as Comfrel.

Sok Touch, an independent political analyst, said at Comfrel’s headquarters Monday that many voters were still keen to find out why they had not been able to vote.

“We have seen mature voters who are not willing to allow politicians to cheat any more,” he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said it is possible that irregularities stem from people registering in one area, but going to vote in another.

(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)

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