A National Election Committee hearing on Monday rejected the first Sam Rainsy Party complaint to emerge from the commune- and province-level voter complaint process, hours after NEC spokesman Leng Sochea had already announced the case would be dismissed.
The NEC’s decision to dismiss the opposition party’s demand for a re-vote in Poipet appeared to be predetermined Monday morning, when Leng Sochea said the NEC had enough proof to reject the case.
“We have a letter showing the Sam Rainsy Party asked to relocate the polling stations in Poipet, so they cannot argue it is wrong,” Leng Sochea said.
The opposition party demanded a recount in Poipet, Banteay Meanchey province, where it says the unannounced relocation of 27 polling stations prevented voters from casting their ballots. Although two Sam Rainsy Party commune officials signed two separate letters agreeing to publicize the relocation, opposition party Senator Ou Bunlong said the commune election committee failed to do so.
Poipet election committee chief Mok Sarin said the commune committee played a tape recording announcing the relocation.
With Sam Rainsy whispering in his ear, Ou Bunlong also publicized several other voting irregularities he said were deserving of a re-vote, including an NEC voting list containing residents of villages that do not exist.
A panel of five jurists scrutinized the complaints for nearly two hours before breaking to confer. Before the jury reconvened, Sam Rainsy rushed out of the room calling the hearing a “drama” and “a waste of time.”
“I have no hope that the NEC will solve the complaints independently,” Sam Rainsy said. “The NEC always repeats what the CPP says.”
NEC officials said Sunday it accepted only five complaints but would review only one. On Monday, Leng Sochea said the NEC acknowledged 17 complaints, four of which have been dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Two are scheduled for hearing today, while the NEC will determine throughout the week whether the remaining 11 are worthy of debate, he said, adding that the likelihood of a re-vote is minimal.
“They’re not going to do another vote because it would cost too much money and time. They don’t have it,” Leng Sochea said. He added that the NEC believes most Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy complaints are fabricated.
Complaints must first be considered by commune- and provincial-election committees before they can reach the NEC for trial. Although unsatisfied party agents may appeal rulings to a higher level, most of the nearly 1,000 complaints filed throughout the country were not considered due to insufficient evidence, Leng Sochea said.
The NEC must conclude its complaint hearings by Thursday. Unsatisfied parties may appeal cases to the Constitutional Council on Friday. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections said Monday it would wait to release its investigation of national complaints until after the NEC has concluded its hearings.
The NEC today will review the election results of 14 communes in Svay Rieng province where preliminary and final vote tally sheets were not reconciled by an opposition party agent, Leng Sochea said.