Support Grows for Opposition Charges

16 Parties Allege  Election Violations

Funcinpec filed a complaint Wednesday on alleged election irregularities as its opposition National United Front ally Sam Rainsy welcomed 12 smaller parties into the protest camp.

But analysts said the parties face an uphill battle in trying to garner enough evidence of fraud to warrant new elections in disputed areas.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Tol Lah delivered a formal complaint to the National Election Committee on Wednesday, party officials said. The complaint was expected to bring up fraud allegations in the elections, which preliminary results indicate were won by the CPP.

Sam Rainsy, meanwhile, worked to whip up support for the complaints, announcing other parties joining the protest, including at least part of Reastr Niyum and other former Funcinpec allies.

“We are demanding another election. We must change the regime,” he told about 1,000 cheering supporters after climbing up a tree outside the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel to address them.

At the Wednesday press conference, however, Sam Rainsy told reporters he was not rejecting the election results, but merely asking for an investigation into irregularities.

He called on observers from his self-named party to recount election irregularities they had seen, ranging from distribution of an anti-Sam Rainsy article outside a Phnom Penh polling station to CPP officials giving 5,000 riel to villagers the night before the polls, to not allowing enough observers to watch all the counting tables. said he was not rejecting election results, but merely asking for an investigation into irregularities.

He asked observers from his self-named party to recount election irregularities, ranging from the distribution of an anti-Sam Rainsy article outside a Phnom Penh polling station to CPP officials giving 5,000 riel to villagers the night be­fore the polls, to not allowing e­nough observers to watch all the counting tables.

But some analysts say the ir­regularities are not enough to merit new elections.

“I have heard their complaints. These are all tiny, small problems they have mentioned so far,” said Peter Schier, country representative for the Konrad Adenauer Found­ation, which was involved in election education. “It is not very convincing what they are saying.”

An Asean diplomat in Phnom Penh agreed. “I think at the mo­ment that unless the opposition can come up with firmly documented and substantial irregularities, they might find it hard to get support from the international community,” the diplomat said.

Funcinpec’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the deposed first prime minister, was not at the Sam Rainsy-led press conference Wednesday. However, aides to the prince said he supported the protest and would not agree to a coalition government with the CPP without an investigation.

“His position is exactly the same as it was yesterday,” said Kong Vibol, the prince’s aide.

Twelve small parties joined Funcinpec, Sam Rainsy Party and its NUF allies Son Sann Party and Khmer Neu­tral Party in protesting alleged irregularities.

They are the Reastr Ni­yum of First Prime Minister Ung Huot, Sangkum Thmei, Cambo­dian National Sustaining Party (Pen Sovann), Light of Liberty-Mr Thach Reng, Khmer Unity Party (Khieu Rada), Democratic Salva­tion Party, Khmer New Life Party, Neutral Democratic Party, Na­tional Rebuilding Party, Sam­bok Khmum, the Republican Coalition Party and the Neutral Republican Party.

Minister of Industry Pou So­thirak represented Reastr Niyum at the press conference, but didn’t say if party Pres­ident Ung Huot supported the protest. Ung Huot pledged Wed­nesday to maintain the current government through the dispute, however.

An aide to Ung Huot, who has been mentioned by Second Prime Mi­ni­ster Hun Sen as a possible governing part­ner if Fun­cin­pec continues to refuse to form a coa­lition, said Ung Huot has not decided whe­ther to join the protest.

One diplomat said to be successful in a complaint, the op­position would have to garner concrete examples, evidence and witnesses of fraud in a number of polling or counting stations that would be significant enough to affect the results.

He echoed the view that Fun­cinpec is using the allegations and refusal to form a government to strengthen their bargaining position for dealing to form a new coalition government. (Ad­ditional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

 

“I think there is a bit of brink­manship going on and people will have to let them go on for a while,” he said. “But they are going to have to put up or shut up sooner or later.”

“I think this is the beginning of the negotiation process.”

 

 

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