NEC: Election Gripes Won’t Affect Outcome

Hundreds of complaints waged with commune and provincial election committees this week testify to several voting irregularities but likely will not affect national election results, officials said Tuesday.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections on Tuesday said it was investigating a long list of problems that kept hundreds of registered voters from casting ballots on Sunday. The National Election Committee said complaints should not affect the outcome of the election due to their small scale, prompting a Comfrel official to accuse the NEC of being too politically biased to solve disputes.

“The NEC has improved since the 1998 elections, but their performance and composition is still affiliated with the ruling party. They’re not strong enough to fairly resolve the complaints,”  Com­frel Director Koul Panha said Tuesday.

Comfrel’s list of voting complaints reported technical problems with the stamps used to mark ballots. Some voting stations used old NEC stamps or stamped ballots on the corners rather than in the center of the paper. “We’re concerned that parties could use this system to target a particular group of people,” Koul Panha said.

But election results may be affected more by voters who were unable to vote Sunday than by problematic ballots, he said.

Polling officials in several prov­inces throughout the country moved stations due to flooding but did not inform voters of the location change. This also happened in Phnom Penh, where heavy rains dampened Election Day but did not cause flooding, he said.

Private security firms in Phnom Penh prohibited their employees from voting Sunday, insisting that the security guards had to uphold previously signed contracts.

The biggest challenge voters faced was long registration lists missing innumerable names, Koul Panha said. Many voters found it difficult or impossible to find their names.

Comfrel is still researching complaints registered with the NEC but is concerned about the impact of many other undocumented problems. Koul Panha said many NEC officials did not distribute complaint forms to concerned voters and instead turned them away.

Party agents have through today to lodge complaints about the voting process or validity of ballots cast with commune election officials. If agents are dissatisfied with the commune committee’s ruling, cases may be ap­pealed to the pro­vincial committee and then to the NEC.

NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said voting problems are too small to affect results. “Most irregularities will be settled at ground level. They likely won’t af­fect the outcome of the vote be­cause they’re minor incidents,” he said.

The NEC expects to have complaints resolved by Saturday, he said.

The Sam Rainsy Party has lodged the most complaints to date, followed by Funcinpec and the Hang Dara Democratic Move­­ment Party, Koul Panha said.

Meanwhile, police on Sunday ar­rested Sam Rainsy Party supporter Lim Chhoy after he allegedly tried to help opposition party activists guard a ballot box in Ta Ek commune, Sa’ang district, Kandal province, opposition party parliamentarian Tioulong Saumura. said.

(Additional reporting by David Kihara)


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