Phnom Penh election committee officials refused to accept voting and ballot complaints Tuesday, one of many problems that spurred the Sam Rainsy Party to demand a recount in the capital and three provinces, party officials and political observers said Wednesday.
Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party agents and some monitoring groups slammed the National Election Committee, as well as commune and provincial election committees, for not acknowledging complaints and miscounting several thousand votes throughout the country.
Officials at the Phnom Penh committee office refused to take 11 complaints offered by Funcinpec agents Tuesday, claiming the complaints should be registered after preliminary election results are aired Aug 8, said Funcinpec agent Mak Vann on Wednesday.
Party agents were required to lodge all commune- and province-level complaints regarding ballots and voting procedures by Wednesday. The NEC is scheduled to review all unsolved complaints by Saturday.
One committee official said he would not accept the complaints because they were “wrong,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights adviser Andrew Thornley said.
“We’re very concerned. This is an absolute repeat of five years ago,” Thornley said. “Clearly [the complaint process] is not working or there’s an effort not to make it work.”
Phnom Penh election committee officials accepted complaints Wednesday after receiving pressure from international election observers, Mak Vann said.
The Sam Rainsy Party is calling for a recount or re-vote in Phnom Penh, Kompong Thom province, Banteay Meanchey province and Svay Rieng province due to voting irregularities, said Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang.
The opposition party’s voting tally in Svay Rieng province differs from numbers released by the NEC, he said. Sam Rainsy Party agents recorded 140,075 votes for the CPP, while the NEC reported 142,405 votes. Opposition party figures indicate the Sam Rainsy Party earned 35,507 votes, but the NEC said it got 35,456.
“We’re demanding a recount, and if the results are crooked, we’ll demand a re-vote,” Ung Bun-Ang said.
Funcinpec’s legal department currently is investigating a surplus of ballots discovered at Kompong Cham polling stations the day after elections, said Funcinpec co-Minister of Interior You Hockry.
“At some stations, there were more ballots on the 28th than were counted on the 27th,” he said, adding that he will not demand a re-vote until the investigation is completed.
The complaint process regarding ballots is complicated and lengthy, causing many party agents to incorrectly fill out complaint forms or not file them at all, said International Republican Institute agent trainer Mary Schwarz.
One form for complaints or objections is used to record concerns before, during and after the election. Agents must fill out four forms exactly the same and must distinguish between complaints and objections, Schwarz said.
A complaint concerns something that would affect the number of votes counted, while an objection considers offenses like intimidation and vote buying. Complaints must be resolved by the NEC by Saturday, while objections will be reviewed even after election results are announced.
The Committee for Free and Fair Elections, which has stated its concern over whether the NEC is politically neutral and whether it has the ability to fairly resolve complaints, currently is gathering information from throughout the country to be entered into a national database.
If Comfrel records voting irregularities at more than 50 percent of a province’s polling stations, it will demand a recount in that province, Comfrel Director Koul Panha said. All data should be entered into a system by Aug 5, but transportation and communication problems may delay the results, he said.
“We just hope the NEC will wait to announce the results until we are finished,” he said.