Small political parties again voiced their disapproval of National Election Committee regulations after learning Thursday of a vote-tallying formula they say mirrors one implemented in 1998 and would help slip CPP officials into office.
Also, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would step down from power if the CPP loses in the July 27 elections, so long as they are “free and fair.”
The adopted vote-tallying formula is similar to a formula that led opposition parties to discredit the 1998 elections. An authoritative copy of the formula in English was unavailable Thursday, but NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said it was “95 percent” the same as the 1998 formula.
“It is contrary to the democratic process, which wants to have a lot of political parties in the National Assembly,” said Hang Samrith, deputy secretary-general of the Hang Dara Democratic Movement Party. “This formula will kill the small parties,” he said.
The complex formula awards seats on a proportional basis, meaning the candidate needs a portion of the vote, not the majority, to secure a National Assembly seat.
A similar formula in 1998 drew criticism from international media experts as well as local politicians.
In a letter to The Phnom Penh Post in February 2002 titled “Lessons from the 1998 Election,” Glenys Kinnock, who served as the European Union’s special representative to the 1998 elections, wrote “it was discovered that last minute changes to the election law were made without consultation, behind closed doors.”
“The significant effect that the change of formula had on the final results on the ballot made it very difficult for Funcinpec or the Sam Rainsy Party to accept the result,” she wrote.
Opposition parties rejected the 1998 election results and rallied in the streets for weeks, saying that the formula had awarded seats according to a skewed proportion, and that it essentially blocked smaller parties from winning seats.
No representatives outside of the three major parties sit in the current Assembly.
“The formula will destroy small parties,” said Sun Sokunmealea, deputy president of the Khmer Front Party. “Sooner or later, only the Cambodian People’s Party will have members in the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile, Hun Sen told a crowd of supporters Thursday that they should refrain from violence during the election period and that he would leave office if he loses the election.
“All political parties, voters, authorities and civil servants must respect the election law in order to ensure the election atmosphere is transparent, free, fair and with no intimidation,” he said in an inauguration address in Kampot province broadcast on radio.
“If I leave my position, I will regard it as my success, because I lead to have free and fair elections. If I win the election, I will continue my work,” he said.
Hun Sen also spoke out against forcing villagers to take oaths to cast a CPP vote—a practice rampant in the countryside, according to election monitors.