NEC to Host CPP, CNRP Election Investigation Discussion

National Election Committee (NEC) Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Friday that the NEC has agreed to host a meeting on Saturday between the CPP and CNRP to discuss the creation of a committee to investigate alleged irregularities during last Sunday’s election.

“We have invited representatives from both parties to participate in a meeting to discuss the creation of a committee to investigate irregularities tomorrow at 9 a.m.” Mr. Nytha said, explaining that the NEC had on Friday received letters from the CPP and CNRP asking that it host such a meeting.

Mr. Nytha said that while the NEC itself had no power to create a committee involving the U.N.—as per the request of the CNRP—the U.N. had participated in similar investigations in the past and could also attend Sat­urday’s meeting.

“Our invitation is general, so NGOs and the U.N. may participate in this investigation too,” he said.

CNRP president Sam Rainsy said that he and CPP Interior Minister Sar Kheng had agreed Friday morning to send letters to the NEC requesting that it host a meeting to establish the committee, which he said would be run independently of the NEC by representatives of the two parties.

“The topics [of the meeting] would be the investigative committee’s composition, its role and its power,” Mr. Rainsy said.

Mr. Rainsy said that the committee would be strictly “technical,” with no political negotiations taking place under its guise, and stressed that the NEC would not play a further role after helping to create the committee.

“Even though we do not trust the NEC, they would play the role of coordinator for the first meeting, but the CNRP will im­mediately ask them to be sidelined…. I would see the central role [thereafter] being played by the United Nations,” he said.

“We would commit ourselves to any decision made by the committee,” Mr. Rainsy added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen had said Wednesday that the ruling CPP would be open to participating in an investigation under the NEC, but the electoral body on Thursday repeated its earlier remarks that it had no authority to organize such an investigation in­volving the political parties, and would proceed only with its existing modes of inquiry into irregularities.

In Kandal province on Friday, Mr. Hun Sen stressed that he did not support the creation of an “independent committee to monitor irregularities” outside of the NEC, but said that he had in­structed Mr. Kheng, the Interior Minister, to send representatives to the NEC to hold a meeting with the CNRP.

“His Excellency Sar Kheng and His Excellency Sam Rainsy discussed [on Thursday] wheth­er the CPP and CNRP should send representatives for a dialogue with the NEC to discuss what to do,” he said. “His Excellency Sar Kheng immediately contacted me for advice…. I told His Excellency Sar Kheng that it was good to do this.”

Mr. Hun Sen said that the ruling party would only participate in an investigation if the NEC decided to broaden its existing inquiry to include third parties.

“If it opens widely like this, I support the CPP to join too. It means we won’t create a new committee, because the law states that the NEC is responsible for resolving the matter,” he said.

He added that he had no problem if the NEC thought it important to involve civil society groups and political parties in a dialogue with the CNRP.

“If U.N. officials can also join, I will be so happy,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Friday that while he could not confirm if Mr. Kheng had spoken to Mr. Rainsy—or if the CPP had sent a letter to the NEC—Mr. Rainsy’s account was likely accurate.

“I don’t know, because I don’t listen to Sar Kheng’s phone conversations. But I think maybe what Mr. Rainsy said was right, because the CPP can send people to the NEC and the CNRP can send people to the NEC and then they can discuss this face-to-face without translation from French to Khmer,” Lt. Gen. So­pheak said.

Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said it was still not likely that the NEC would accept a proposal to create a joint committee into irregularities, as it had already made clear it was only interested in its own investigation.

“The NEC will not agree to establish a joint commission for the CPP and CNRP. If it does, it would mean the NEC is not important,” he said.

“The NEC has opened to re­ports [of irregularities], so if the political parties want to send in complaints, it will check the documents and review the complaints.”

Committee for Free and Fair Elections executive director Koul Panha said that despite Mr. Hun Sen’s comments on Friday and the NEC’s statements, the creation of an independent joint-party committee was possible.

“Let’s see,” he said. “At least they will discuss it among themselves, even if they have their own ideas already. If they can agree on proceedings and a mechanism, and what the investigation into irregularities will look like, it is possible.”

“The political parties are very powerful—they are the ones who agree on the rules of the game,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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