battambang town – A top National Election Committee official said here Wednesday that a lack of observers in many commune election commissions during the vote counting process has led to a number of informal complaints.
“Many parties say they were not permitted enough party observers to access the counting,” NEC Vice Chairman Kassie Neou said.
He said a late NEC-sanctioned change in vote-counting procedures required more observers to be present because counts would be going on simultaneously at the same commune station.
“This made observing counting more difficult…. Maybe it was a change we shouldn’t have made,” Kassie Neou said, acknowledging many parties and organizations were unable to provide a sufficient number of people to observe thoroughly.
But he said the NEC was ready to investigate claims of irregularities if parties filed formal complaints before Aug 4.
Under original guidelines, observers at the commune-level counting stations would have been needed to monitor only one large count as ballots from different polling stations would have been mixed together.
The change was made in mid-June because bags could not be found large enough to store ballots from all polling stations in one commune, NEC Secretary-General Im Suorsdei said at the time. The change mandated that multiple, smaller counts would be going on simultaneously.
“I saw with my own eyes, it was not the best way to do the count,” Kassie Neou said Wednesday.
But he emphasized the NEC had to investigate individual complaints before making any judgments about the fairness of the vote-counting process.
Kassie Neou’s trip to Battambang province included a visit to the provincial election commission, where PEC officials re-counted ballots from Tameun commune following a formal protest by CPP officials.
The recount took virtually the entire day and determined the original vote count Monday was accurate, with Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party garnering the most votes, with CPP at third.
CPP candidate Chang Von considered the recount just, even though his party did not benefit. “We can consider the NEC fair and the result of the election is 99 percent fair,” he said.
The recount followed heated debate between Chang Von and Funcinpec candidate Sochea Mu.
The recount was authorized by Kassie Neou, following complaints by Chang Von that Sochea Mu entered the commune election commission during counting, and shortly thereafter there was an hour halt in counting. He alleged that her presence was a violation and the temporary halt in counting was unjustified.