The National Election Committee is set to recount ballots from three Takeo communes today under the watchful eyes of observers from the European Union and suspicious opposition party agents.
NEC officials had planned to start the recount Monday on a request from Funcinpec, but delayed at about 5:30 pm when workers were still searching for the three ballot bags among about 150 from Takeo and Preah Vihear stacked up in one room.
“The problem is that if you open one bag, you have to finish it,” explained NEC member You Kan outside a storage room door crowded with EU observers and political party agents.
Recounting could take hours, so election officials decided to wait until morning to avoid working late Monday night, You Kan said. “We have been working hard and [have been] exhausted for so many days right now.”
But opposition politician Sam Rainsy on Monday accused the NEC of cooperating with the ruling CPP to delay any recounts.
“They put forward all kinds of excuses to delaying the recounting process,” said Sam Rainsy, who has alleged fraud in the original ballot counting last week.
He alleged the CPP, which has claimed a majority of seats in parliament before the official preliminary NEC results, wants to avoid a recount.
“I think some people will be very embarrassed when the recount yields its results,” Sam Rainsy said. “I think it will change the results…in a significant way.”
The NEC’s newly formed Election Results Control Commission reportedly had been set to recount some communes in Kompong Speu on Saturday, but were delayed after protests from others in the NEC, according to sources.
NEC Vice Chairman Kassie Neou said Monday the problem was that no legal procedure existed for recounting ballots.
“The paperwork was not ready and now it is ready,” Kassie Neou said. “I don’t talk about Saturday anymore. We do the recount… and forget the past.”
Lawrence Lachmansingh, field representative of the National Democratic Institute, said the delay might be attributed to technical problems.
“They spent a really short time pulling together a lot of logistics for election day, counting and consolidation,” he said. “Nobody had given any thought to the recounting process.”
A Sam Rainsy Party aide complained Monday its party agents were not allowed to stay in the NEC headquarters overnight to guard the ballot bags.
The NEC says the ballot bags are securely locked up in its headquarters. Ballots from each commune counting center are supposed to be bundled together by party, wrapped in plastic and sealed. The bundles are to be sealed in white plastic tamper-evident bags, which are then placed in a second, blue bag that is also to be sealed.
Technical advisers at the NEC have said while the system may not prevent tampering, it should make it evident to observers later if anyone does tamper with the ballots or records.