Saying he and his supporters have evidence of vote-buying, voter intimidation and improper ballot counting in last week’s commune council elections, opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Tuesday called for a recount in 20 communes and a revote in an additional 51 communes.
He contended a recount in Kompong Speu province has already led to a reversal and a Sam Rainsy Party win after elections officials discovered nine uncounted ballots, which gave his party a five-vote victory and control of its 14th commune.
“A judgment on the election process cannot be made until we see how these complaints are handled” by the National Election Committee, he said.
NEC officials announced they had rejected three of Sam Rainsy’s requests for recounts or revotes, including a recount request in Angkor Borei commune, Takeo province, where Sam Rainsy Party officials alleged their candidate had been bribed by CPP officials to drop out of the race.
The NEC also rejected Tuesday the Sam Rainsy Party’s request for a recount at eight polling stations in Tuol Kork district and a revote request for Anlong Vel commune, Battambang province. The commune is one of 40 in Battambang in which Sam Rainsy wants a revote.
After the 1998 elections, the opposition party filed more than 800 complaints. Only three were investigated by election officials, according to Sam Rainsy Party Senator Ou Bun Long.
Sam Rainsy leveled a barrage of complaints against the CPP, saying party agents restricted access to the polls and took voters’ registration cards. He charged that CPP agents went to voters’ homes the night before the election and said there would be violence if they voted for parties other than the CPP. He alleged the agents handed out 500 to 30,000 riel (about $0.12 to $7.50).
Rainsy suggested a list of amendments to the elections law, including new measures to select the NEC chairman and vice chairman with approval from all political parties represented in the National Assembly. The positions are currently CPP-appointed.
He also asked for a second round of voter registration and a change from ballot-counting at each polling station to one counting location for each commune. When evidence of vote-buying is discovered, he said there should be an automatic revote. He suggested recounting should be automatic when the victory margin is less than 0.5 percent.
He also proposed that overseas Cambodians be allowed to vote in national elections. Approximately 500,000 Cambodians live abroad, and Sam Rainsy estimated there are 300,000 eligible voters.
Sam Rainsy supporters claimed one more commune victory in Svay Cho Choep commune, Kompong Speu province, saying a recount showed the party had nine legitimate ballots among the “null and void” pile of ballots that had been cast out, enough to give it a five-vote win. The Sam Rainsy Party observers in the commune were not educated about the elections law and allowed the ballots to be set aside although they were valid, according to Ou Bun Long.
CPP officials have appealed that recount. A second recount has been scheduled for today at NEC offices in Phnom Penh.