Regional, Local Observers OK Ballot Counting

Local and regional observer groups said Tuesday that despite irregularities, the counting pro­cess for Sunday’s polls was “credible.”

But one observer group, the Asian Network for Free Elec­tions, said that reports of intimidation and political violence during the four-week campaign needs to be taken into consideration be­fore issuing a final evaluation.

“It was a basically free atmosphere,” said Saiyud Kerdpol, head of the Asian group. But he cautioned that the overall situation, including the post-election period, must be considered in any assessment.

The Asian Network also called on the National Election Commit­tee to immediately investigate complaints of irregularities.

Opposition parties on Monday complained of widespread incidents, including party agents being barred from counting stations and ballot tampering.

One prominent local observer group, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said problems did not represent a trend.

“At this stage in the opinion of [Comfrel] we can say that the counting process has been ‘fair and credible,’ not withstanding the isolated incidents of restricting the access of party agents and observers,” member Thun Saray said at a press conference Tues­day morning.

Comfrel reported that a Fun­cin­pec agent had been denied ac­cess to a counting center in Phnom Penh, and a Comfrel ob­server was refused entry in Battam­bang province for the first half of the morning Monday.

The irregularities, though, appeared to result more from tech­nical problems than fraud, Thun Saray said.

But he would not call the election “free and fair,” as the Joint International Observer Group did Monday night. “We still use only reasonably credible, not free and fair,” he said. “It is only free without intimidation so it can’t be free.”

He also said Comfrel was still con­cerned that violence might occur—especially at the village level—after poll results are final.

Another observer group, the Neutral and Independent Com­mittee for Free Elections in Cam­bodia, canceled a press conference on Tuesday, saying it was not ready to release a statement.

Members of the Volunteers Observers for the Cambodian Elec­tion, headed by former Aus­tra­lian ambassador to Cam­bodia, Tony Kevin, offered positive re­views of the electoral process.

Kevin called for the international community to resume “normal relations with whatever government is formed in the next few weeks, as quickly as possible.”

When asked if their report would change as a result of complaints of fraud from opposition parties, team members said they would hold firm.

“We simply can report on what we saw,” said John McAuliffe, deputy chair of the Volunteer Ob­servers. “If they have substantial grounds for their complaints, they need to submit those in concrete terms.”

(Reporting by Mhari Saito, Lor Chandara, Debra Boyce and Stew Magnuson)



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