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.