Sam Rainsy Says He Will Accept Results if Observers Do

The Sam Rainsy Party will ac­cept the results of Sunday’s commune council elections as long as the international community does, Sam Rainsy said Monday.

In 1998, the Sam Rainsy Party, Funcinpec and several smaller parties refused for months to ac­cept the national election results, leading to prolonged post-election upheavals.

But unless election observers re­port “a very black picture” of widespread fraud and abuse, pro­tests will not occur this time, Sam Rainsy said, although he said this election was far from perfect.

“A flawed election is better than nothing, and I prefer to make small gains rather than not move ahead at all,” he told reporters after a speech to cheering supporters at party headquarters.

Just how much the Sam Rainsy Party has gained remained un­known Monday, as results continued to trickle in to Phnom Penh from polling stations around the country.

But the returns indicated a strong showing by the CPP nationwide, with the Sam Rainsy Party gaining in Phnom Penh, Poipet, and communes in Kandal, Kampot, Kompong Cham and Koh Kong provinces.

As in 1998, the opposition par­ty’s gains came at the expense of Funcinpec, which trailed the CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party in most Phnom Penh communes. And while Funcinpec finished second in many rural locations, the Sam Rainsy Party was close on its heels.

“In absolute terms, we are the only party who has made significant gains,” Sam Rainsy said. “The Cambodian political landscape changed dramatically [Sunday].”

Sam Rainsy characterized the re­turns as a wake-up call to Fun­cinpec, and urged Funcinpec members to join his party.

“Many Sam Rainsy Party members, like me, are former Funcin­pec members, and there is an in­creasing trend to switch to the SRP,” he said. “[Funcinpec Pres­ident] Prince Ranariddh should ask himself why.”

Sam Rainsy said Funcinpec leadership has moved away from the party’s original ideals of fighting authoritarianism and communism, helping the poor and working for social justice.

“These were the ideals of Fun­cinpec in 1981, when I helped found it,” he said.

“The top leadership of Funcin­pec has abandoned these ideals. I appeal to those in Fun­cinpec loyal to these ideals to abandon their corrupt and incompetent leadership” and join the Sam Rainsy Party.

Sam Rainsy said he is willing to talk to Prime Minister Hun Sen “any time, anywhere” about improved co­operation between the CPP and his party, which must now work together on hundreds of commune councils across the country.

There is no need for a signed agreement on cooperation, Sam Rainsy said, although he does not oppose the idea.

“On the commune councils, we will not treat each other as enemies. We have to cooperate. As elected representatives of the peo­ple, we will all have political le­gitimacy,” he said.

Sam Rainsy fired a few other salvos in a genial and upbeat meeting with reporters. He said the CPP had used its entrenched position to maximize its vote totals, and that its tactics included banning rival parties from the electronic media and allowing CPP government officials to campaign on work time using official vehicles and supplies.

“I had to go from commune to commune, speaking through a loudspeaker, until I lost my voice,” he said. “Well, I have re­covered my voice now or, I should say, I have a lot of new voices.”

He said the CPP machine was effective, mobilizing “100 percent of their core support” while preventing as many as 1 million eligible voters from registering. An­other 1 million voters who were registered did not vote Sunday, he said. NEC official Samrieng Kimsan Monday estimated turn­out at 70 percent.

In the run-up to the 2003 na­tional elections, the Sam Rainsy Party will attempt to mobilize those 2 million voters. “That’s a third of the electorate,” he said.

As for his party’s apparent victory in Poipet, Sam Rainsy said leaders will check whether they can legally close the casinos operating in the border town.

“Our victory in Poipet is the first serious warning to the mafia in Cambodia” to stop its gambling, prostitution and drug operations, he said.

He said party members will con­centrate on rooting out corruption at the commune level, in­cluding favoritism in aid distribution and allowing powerful people to illegally grab land.

“In communes where the Sam Rainsy Party has a strong voice, we want first to ensure the fair dis­tribution of land,” he said, in­cluding large tracts seized by speculators, which now lie idle.

He said commune council mem­bers from his party would be the “eyes and ears” on operations, even where they do not en­joy a majority.

“We will finally have a system of checks and balances in Cam­bodia,” he said.



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