Kassie Neou Says NEC Available for Recounts

The National Election Com-mittee is prepared to do further recounts if the Constitutional Council orders it to do so, the electoral body’s vice chairman said Thursday at his office.

Giving his first in-depth interview since he turned in his resignation as an NEC subcommittee chair in early August following internal disagreements, Kassie Neou said the NEC still has a contribution to make to ensure the success of the July 26 election.

“The electoral process is not finished with the announcement of results. A peaceful transfer of power is necessary. We all have a responsibility to work to this end,” he said.

Another prominent NEC member, treasurer Chhay Kim, confirmed Thursday that members of the body had discussed the possibility of re-organizing efforts to respond to opposition com­plaints. “It would be up to all the members of the NEC,” he said.

Kassie Neou said he believed further NEC investigations into Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party allegations of poll violations could be the key to alleviating the current deadlock between opposition parties and the ruling CPP.

“If the [Constitutional Council] orders us, we can do a thorough investigation, prepare a report, and submit it to the CC for their decision,” he said.

Kassie Neou reasoned that both the CPP and the opposition should support further electoral inquiries.

“Recounting, random checking and accounting for all 9 million printed ballots will increase the legitimacy of the winners and increase the legitimacy of the election,” he said.

Sam Rainsy, president of his self-named party, said Thursday he would be “happy to see” his complaints probed, but questioned the NEC’s motive and its ability to investigate objectively.

“First, the NEC decided to end its work prematurely, suddenly, arbitrarily and unfairly….Now they want to save their face, but they pretend to need an order from the Constitutional Council,” Sam Rainsy said. “I have no illusion with [either body] to do anything in line with the legitimate demands of the opposition.”

Said a top government adviser: “It’s a bit late to talk about this now. The electoral process is past. Now it’s time for political maneuvering to form a government. The NEC was stupid not to react three weeks ago.”

Kassie Neou said it’s a shame the NEC did not, and will not, take this initiative on its own.

“They would block it,” he said, referring to key members of the NEC, whom he criticizes as failing to respect the body’s mottoes of independence, justice and transparency.

“It’s like they are holding up their hand and saying, ‘See, it’s a clean hand,’ but they won’t open their palm to prove it. If it’s a clean hand, why not show everyone?”

Kassie Neou said he returned to work full-time on Aug 24 after taking some two weeks for “meditation.” He left in a huff after colleagues obstructed efforts to “do our work” during recounts. NEC Chairman Chheng Phon later did not accept his resignation as the chair of the subcommittee on fraud.

Kassie Neou said he spent more than a week in Sihanouk-ville looking at the endless horizon above the sea “collecting new ideas and gathering strength.”



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