Rights Group Calls for New Voting Before Election Finalized

Rights group Licadho on Saturday called for a widespread recounting of ballots from last month’s contested national election and a revote at some polling stations due to an “alarming” number of irregularities recorded by its observers.

Both the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP are claiming to have won the July 28 poll, which the opposition and other election monitors claim was riddled with problems.

Licadho’s latest claims of problems with the voting lists at polling stations, voter intimidation and outright fraud are not new, but its report offered specific ex­amples from many of the more than 100 polling stations its ob­servers visited on election day.

“We were expecting significant issues with the voter rolls, especially in light of earlier reports of ghost voters, drastic over-registrations and the like, but the indications of vote rigging we saw went beyond that,” said Licadho director Naly Pilorge.

“The observations detailed in this report unequivocally demonstrate the need for further in-depth investigations and additional procedures before the vote results can be finalized,” she added.

As with previous assessments of the election, most of the irregularities recorded by Licadho’s observers involved voters who by all appearances should have been allowed to cast ballots but were denied, in many cases because their names had inexplicably disappeared from the voter rolls.

At one voting site in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, it said, witnesses saw the son of the local village chief placing several ballots inside a ballot box on his own and a teacher stamping several ballots before hiding them.

At another voting site in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district, Licadho said several voters whose names appeared on the site’s voter roll told its observers that they had never voted in the province before and lived elsewhere. Another group of voters at the same site, also from other provinces, said they had been brought by their employer because it could not afford to send them home.

The report recommended a thorough review and revamping of the registration process, a revote at some of the polling sites and a recount of votes using sealed 1102 forms starting with the most competitive provinces.

The report did not name or number the exact sites where a revote and recounting should take place. Am Sam Ath, Licadho’s technical supervisor, suggested starting in the provinces of Kandal, Prey Veng and Siem Reap.

According to preliminary results from the National Election Committee (NEC), the CPP won 68 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats and the CNRP the other 55. The CNRP would need less than 200 additional votes in Kandal to win an extra seat.

Licadho said it would submit its report to the NEC and the Constitutional Council of Cam­bodia (CCC) today.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha insisted that the Committee had stuck to the country’s election laws but would take a look at Licadho’s claims when they arrived. “We will review the report to see if there are some claims we should accept and some we should drop,” he said.

CCC member Prom Nhean Vicheth said a revote was out of the question.

“Revoting can happen in the case of natural disasters like a storm, but the election went smoothly,” he said.

As for Licadho’s call for a recount, “the NGO has the right to ask, but the Constitutional Council will do everything according to its procedures,” he said without elaborating.

The CCC in fact started counting some of the supposedly sealed 1102 forms in Kratie, but several of them were found to have been already opened.

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