The National Election Committee on Thursday finished its complaint hearings for the 2003 national elections, overturning two rulings handed down by the Kompong Speu Provincial Election Committee and drawing more fire from critics.
Committee for Free and Fair Elections Director Koul Panha on Thursday called the NEC’s efforts inadequate. He said the NEC intentionally addressed only cases that would not upset the election results.
“They are not brave enough to solve the political affairs complaints, because this will affect the election results,” he said.
In addition, he said, “The NEC tries to avoid any complaints related to the top CPP officials.”
One case dismissed Thursday involved a Sam Rainsy Party official in Kompong Speu who was fined 5 million riel (about $1,250) for interfering with a CPP rally.
CPP officials initially accused the opposition official, Sok Sarom, of cutting off speakers that were broadcasting a CPP tape.
But CPP lawyer Sok Chea successfully asked the NEC to dismiss the case. “There was some slight confusion. The Sam Rainsy officials didn’t annoy the campaign,” he said Thursday.
Sok Chea said two unidentified foreigners working as election observers were the ones who cut off the speakers.
Sam Rainsy Party representative You Samheang told the NEC that on July 20, Sam Rainsy tried to give a speech in Kompong Speu but CPP officials there cranked up their campaign recording to drown him out. The election observers disconnected the speakers so that Sam Rainsy could be understood, he said.
Sok Chea also asked the NEC to dismiss the other case, in which the Kompong Speu Provincial Election Committee barred two CPP village chiefs from voting for five years.
The two chiefs, Tet Sambath and Oum Khim of Samrong Tong district’s Rlaingprel commune, were accused of entering a polling station on Election Day and ordering villagers to vote for the CPP.
Chea Sok argued that the village chiefs were simply assisting illiterate voters.
You Samheang agreed that the case should be dropped.
“The two village chiefs promised me that they wouldn’t do it again,” he said. The NEC dismissed the case.
Although the opposition party did not expect the NEC to take action, the process should be followed so that a party can criticize the NEC when it fails, Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha called the criticisms groundless and typical of the opposition.