NDI Changes Its View of Poll

A US-based democracy group monitoring Cambodia’s electoral process said Saturday that the failure to deal with post-vote fraud complaints threatens the polls’ credibi­li­ty.

“Unless election-related complaints are addressed expeditiously, thoroughly and impartially, there can be little public con­fide­nce in the integrity of the over­all pro­­cess,” a statement by the Na­tional Democratic Institute said.

“How the post-election problems are resolved will influence greatly the legitimacy of the next government and the prospects for democracy in Cambodia.”

Saturday’s statement echoed pre­vious critical reports by NDI and was in contrast to the words of its chief elections ob­server, former US congressman Ste­phen Solarz, who two days after the July 26 polls referred to a “miracle on the Mekong.” The phrase has been quoted repeatedly by CPP officials asked about allegations of election fraud and intimidation.

NDI’s statement criticized the Na­tio­nal Election Committee for what it called “arbitrary rejection of complaints.”

“Regrettably, post-election developments point once again to systemic problems with the election process,” the report said.

After receiving opposition re­quests to recount ballots in 800 com­munes, the NEC held re­counts in only eight communes before abruptly stopping after three days. Opposition parties have alleged substantial fraud and demanded more recounts.

“In its failure to undertake even cursory investigations, the NEC also refused to provide official re­jection notices to the complai­nants. This, in turn, has jeopardized the parties’ ability to take complaints to the Constitutional Council,” the NDI report said.

NEC officials could not be reached for comment Sunday. But government spokesman Khieu Kanharith implied that the NDI was biased. “For many people they say you can have a de­mo­cratic pro­cess only when Fun­cinpec or the Sam Rainsy Party wins,” he said adding that the NEC has done enough by having recounts at all.

“I think that you can see that so­me of the complaints have been settled. Don’t forget that in the 1993 elections, no­ne of the CPP complaints were settled.”

The CPP said after the UN-administered elections in 1993 that international personnel allowed cheating that cost the party the election, which was won by Funcin­pec. CPP gained a place in the coalition government that followed after some CPP officials in the east threatened to se­ce­de.

Four years later, then first prime minister Prince Norodom Rana­riddh was effectively ousted in July 1997 after fierce fighting be­­tween Fun­cinpec and CPP forces. The CPP has dominated the gov­ernment since.

 

 

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