The Constitutional Council of Cambodia on Monday said it would hold a public hearing this week between the National Election Committee (NEC) and the CNRP after the opposition complained that the NEC has used unsealed—and possibly doctored—polling records to investigate election irregularities.
During a public event on Sunday at the NEC’s headquarters, eight out of 13 packages containing documents that tally and add up the votes from polling stations in Kratie were improperly sealed—some of them left completely open—drawing calls for the Constitutional Council to conduct further investigations into electoral fraud.
“We will have a public hearing in order to give a chance to the plaintiff and for the NEC to defend itself regarding the findings of unsealing safety box A,” said Prom Nhean Vicheth, a member of the Constitutional Council.
“Whenever the date for the public hearing is set, we will inform public and media at least 24 hours before the hearing day so then public can attend,” he said.
Mr. Nhean Vicheth did not elaborate on what actions would be taken if the NEC failed to properly explain why the packages had arrived improperly sealed. Rights groups, including Licadho, have said irregularities during the July 28 election were so widespread in some areas of the country that recounting and a complete revote would be needed in certain instances.
In a statement released late Sunday night, Transparency International Cambodia’s executive director, Preap Kol, said the improperly sealed documents breached the election law.
“This is a significant breach of the election law and raises concerns over the security of confidential documents. Based on the accounts of these political party complaints, the difference in invalid votes could have a significant impact on the election results for Kratie province,” he said.
He also said that any future complaint hearings should be open to the public and broadcast on television networks.
On Monday, an “urgent note” stamped by Constitutional Council President Ek Sam Ol also ordered that packages from eight polling stations in Battambang City to be opened for verification, Mr. Nhean Vicheth said.
The note says that the unsealing is for the “verification of ballots from forms 1102, 1108 and ballot recording documents.”
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said that the body is ready to attend the upcoming hearing and reiterated that “technical issues” had been to blame for the sealing blunder.
NEC officials on Sunday said that the reason the packages were open was because some NEC staff employed for the election had only had one day of training.
When asked whether or not careless election officials would be punished, he blamed the institution itself for failing to properly train them and denied that electoral fraud had taken place.
As to whether or not the next batch of packages will have been sealed properly or not, he said: “I can’t predict that.”
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)