kompong cham town – Moments before casting his ballot in Sunday’s elections, opposition leader Sam Rainsy slammed the Joint International Observer Group’s positive assessment of poll conditions, saying it opened the way for electoral fraud.
“They are lowering their standards,” Sam Rainsy said of Friday’s JIOG statement, which said the polls could be “broadly representative” of the people’s will. “They should insist on free and fair elections. It sends a bad message to those who may attempt fraud,” he said.
As he walked toward Teak Sen polling station in the center of this provincial capital to vote Sunday morning, Sam Rainsy lambasted the group for failing to apply international standards to the election.
“They think Cambodia deserves only a second-class election because Cambodia is a third-rate country. They just think that what we have now is better than the Khmer Rouge.”
But he vowed to accept the results of the elections if they were deemed free and fair “not necessarily by JIOG but the majority of observers, the most credible, most neutral, most impartial.
“If the general consensus is that the election was fraudulent…then I will reject the results. If the consensus is that it is credible, I will accept that,” he said.
Despite his reservations, Sam Rainsy said he was moved by the sight of Cambodians lining up at polling stations between Phnom Penh and Kompong Cham.
“I am so happy to see so many people so enthusiastic to come to vote. It shows Cambodians want to vote because they want a change,” he said.
But he refused to be drawn into speculation on how he would fare in the polls.
“I’m not like Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, those two leaders who predict landslide victories; I am much more modest,” he chuckled.
“If the vote is equally divided into three, it would look acceptable, it would reflect the mood and wishes of the Cambodian people.”
Sam Rainsy also smiled when asked why he had chosen Kompong Cham, the country’s most populous province and a CPP administration stronghold, as the constituency where he would stand.
“It is the toughest one. I am a fighter,” he said. “It is the political stronghold of Hun Sen’s family. Hun Sen used to be the first candidate, his brother Hun Neang has been governor for 20 years. They see it as their fiefdom. I want to dismantle the CPP administration here.”
But he refused to answer whether he would serve in a coalition government with the CPP, saying it was too early to contemplate a political deal.
“I will cooperate with the party chosen by the Cambodian people in free and fair elections,” he said. “I am not interested in taking part in any coalition government intended for sharing power for the sake of power, just to share positions, money…like Hun Sen and Ranariddh in ’93.”
“I am interested only in a coalition government…which is serious. So far, no one talked about a serious government. Everyone has in mind the type of government formed in 1993. That would be a recipe for disaster.”