A routine step in the election process turned contentious on Monday, as representatives of two major political parties disputed the National Election Committee’s plan to burn ballots from the two last elections.
NEC officials said disposing of ballots from the 1998 and 2002 polls was urgent to free up space for the upcoming national elections. Existing regulations require ballots from national elections to be kept for four years and those from commune elections for one year.
But Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party disputed the plan.
Opposition lawmaker Kouy Bunroeun said burning the ballots would destroy evidence of election fraud that has never been fully examined. The party brought more than 300 complaints after the 1998 elections, which were ignored by previous NECs, he said.
“We oppose the NEC burning the ballots if these complaints have not been solved,” he said. “Even though the last NEC has resigned, the current NEC still has a duty to look into the complaints.”
Funcinpec’s Sok Mathoeun opposed burning the ballots on the grounds that the election body had more important things to do.
Burning the ballots would also be expensive and take funds away from other areas, he noted, “so the NEC should stop its plan to burn [the ballots] and concentrate on running the election process instead.”
NEC Deputy Chairman Nge Chhay Lieng said the space taken up by the old ballots was sorely needed. “It is very necessary that we burn these ballots and materials because we need room to store new materials for the next election,” he said.
The CPP’s representative, Chheam Soeun, supported the NEC’s plan and called for haste. “The NEC should burn those materials soon, because if it is done after the election…people will be suspicious of what is being burned.”
Koul Panha, president of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the NEC should let political parties inspect the old ballots before destroying them. “The law allows the NEC to destroy [ballots] after four years, but that doesn’t mean the NEC has to destroy them,” he said. “They can keep them longer if they want.”