Sam Rainsy Wants Revote, Observers Disagree

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy renewed a call for a new election as parliamentarians and analysts reviewed the shortcomings of last year’s polls in a forum Wednes­day.

“In this crisis we need to return to the constituents, to the owner of the ballot,” Sam Rainsy told lawmakers and civil society members at the forum. He said the country’s government—now in its seventh month of stalemate—was nearing a “great catastrophe.”

The Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec both rejected the re­sults of the July 27 elections and have held out on forming a coalition government with the CPP.

The forum, sponsored by the US-based National Democratic Institute, is intended to review last year’s elections and field suggestions for improvements on the polling process. It concludes to­day at Hotel Le Royal.

Sam Rainsy’s remarks came af­ter many election observers at the forum called the National Election Committee a flawed ad­ministrative body and said voters were intimidated by biased village chiefs. The NEC was widely criticized before and after the polls for its members being hand-picked by the CPP.

Monh Saphan, chairman of the National Assembly’s legal commission and a Funcinpec parliamentarian, suggested several changes to the election law before the planned 2008 polls, including an amendment that would give more specific powers to the NEC to monitor and review complaints.

Despite its flaws, the election was largely endorsed by local and international observers. Sam Rain­sy’s call ran counter to a speech given by Dominic Cardy, the political program manager at NDI. He said the three parties were ignoring the law set forth in the Consti­tution and acting in their own in­ter­ests, thus prolonging the deadlock.

“There is no point in going into negotiations with a list of demands that is only going to humiliate the other party,” Cardy said.

The CPP should “acknowledge that some of their activists intimidate voters,” he said, adding that members of the opposition should ack­now­ledge that “Cambodia is not Bur­ma. It is not an op­pressed po­lice state.”

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