Legal Body Gets Stacks Of Protests

The Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy parties on Thursday formally appealed more than 800 claims of vote fraud in last month’s elections that poll authorities had rejected, officials said. 

The Sam Rainsy Party submitted 609 complaints to the Con­stitutional Council, the nation’s highest appeals body, while Funcinpec submitted more than 250, they said.

But while 601 demands for vote recounts filed by the Sam Rainsy Party were accepted for consideration, another seven complaints, including a protest over an al­legedly illegal change in the formula used to allocate National Assembly seats, were rejected by a Council clerk, according to Sam Rainsy Party officials.

Contacted late Thursday, Con­stitutional Council President Chan Sok denied any complaints were rejected. “We haven’t check­ed any of them yet, so how can we have rejected them?” he said.

But late Thursday, after the deadline for complaints passed, Sam Rainsy and other party officials said the complaints would never be heard at all if the “low-ranking clerk’s” decision to reject them was up­held.

Eng Chhay Ieng, the party official in charge of poll complaints, said the clerk rejected them on grounds the Coun­cil was not “the competent authority” to consider the allegations, as none had yet been ruled on by the National Election Com­mittee.

But he said at least one of the complaints rejected by the clerk—an appeal of the preliminary results of the election—can be taken either to the Council or the NEC, according to article 114 of the electoral law.

One legal expert said Thursday that whatever the validity of the appeals, a clerk does not have jurisdiction to reject complaints.

“There’s nine members on that Council and they should be the ones to rule on it,” he said. “A clerk should accept everything.”

Sam Rainsy said he called Council member Say Bory late Thursday, who reportedly ad­vised the party to resubmit the appeals for reconsideration.  “We plan to do that [today] in a very visible way,” Sam Rainsy said.

Of all the complaints rejected, the most contentious is probably that concerning the dispute over the formula for seat allocation. Un­challenged, the formula would leave the CPP with an absolute majority in parliament—not sufficient to form a government on their own, but enough to enable them to pass most legislation.

Despite the stacks of complaints filed at 4:30 pm, the Sam Rainsy Party maintained its stance the Council was illegally formed and favored the CPP.

“We harbor no illusion that the Council can or will give our complaints a proper hearing,” said a party statement late Thursday, saying it lacks legal standing, staff and resources to handle the task.

The deadline for lodging the appeals was 5:30 pm Thursday, 48 hours after the NEC rejected wholesale the opposition complaints, which alleged widespread fraud, irregularities and tampering in the July 26 election.

On Tuesday, the NEC, which conducted recounts in eight of the hundreds of municipalities where fraud was alleged, said the complaints had been rejected due to lack of proof.

The committee officially rejected only 304 opposition complaints it deemed to be “serious,” saying the others—which are included in the appeals at the Constitu­tional Council—were totally baseless and did not warrant more than cursory inspection.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, which finished second and third in the election according to official preliminary returns, have rejected the election results and say they will not recognize them until their complaints are ad­dressed.

They contend both the NEC and the Constitutional Council are biased in favor of the CPP, which won the election.

The Council has until Aug 29 to consider the appeals, after which preliminary results will become final or modifications will be made.

The CPP is set to win 64 of the 122 seats in parliament, a majority but not the two-thirds needed to form a government on its own.

Hun Sen has offered to form a coalition with Funcinpec, which is set to win 43 seats, but has backed off an initial proposal to form a three-way government including the Sam Rainsy Party, set to win the remaining 15 seats.

The opposition has rejected the offer as premature, citing their outstanding complaints, and have vowed to boycott parliament unless they are heard fairly.

Both parties have several times re-affirmed that stance, increasing the potential for a constitutional crisis.

(Reporting by Catherine Philp and Pin Sisovann)

 

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