Despite repeated requests, the National Election Committee failed Tuesday to produce minutes of a May 28 meeting in which members purportedly changed the formula for allocating National Assembly seats.
Opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay immediately blasted the lack of minutes and claimed the revised formula’s quiet introduction proves an NEC bias toward the CPP. Western observers questioned its legality absent minutes and urged the international community to investigate.
Under the little-noticed revised formula, the CPP is projected to win 64 seats, or a majority in the 122-seat National Assembly. Under the original formula contained in a May 6 draft of the NEC regulations, the CPP would win 59 seats. The revised formula benefits constituency winners—the CPP stands to win 52 percent of the Assembly seats with 42 percent of the popular vote.
Controversy over the issue erupted at the end of a press conference Tuesday afternoon in which the NEC continued to announce preliminary election results. The NEC expects to complete those results today by releasing totals for Phnom Penh and Battambang province.
NEC Chairman’s spokesman Samraing Kamsan described minutes from a late May meeting as “general.” He said it would be more helpful to distribute a copy of NEC Chairman Chheng Phon’s May 29 approval of the change in the seat-allocation formula. But from answers given Tuesday, it wasn’t clear if the change had been discussed by the NEC in late May prior to Chheng Phon’s approval.
Samraing Kamsan reiterated the formula was distributed and approved by parties on June 10.
But NEC spokesman Leng Sochea already has acknowledged the 200-page NEC regulations were distributed at that meeting, and the revised formula, which is contained as an annex, wasn’t specifically discussed.
“I’m sorry that maybe those who took the book did not read it clearly,” Samraing Kamsan said Tuesday. “But there’s no reason to say the NEC had any plan. The NEC didn’t know who was going to win the election.”
Soon after, Son Chhay took the microphone to say that he has talked to NEC members who were not aware of the reason for the change. “They are not neutral,” Son Chhay charged. “We are just pissed off with all these kinds of games they are playing.”
Peter Schier, representative for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, said in an interview Monday that the NEC shouldn’t be making changes in secret. “The NEC is not a secret society,” he said. “If they change the system of allocation of seats, they have to make a public statement. It has a big political repercussion.”
If no minutes can be produced, Schier said “then I think the change is illegal.”
A long-time Western political observer said Tuesday that the formula change “appears to be a form of manipulation” by the NEC and urged the international community take issue with it in their evaluations of the election.
“How can you call it free and fair when there’s overt manipulation like this?” he said. He added that while allegations of vote-buying and fraud are difficult to prove, this issue is “black and white.”
(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito and Jeff Hodson)