UN Rights Envoy Subedi Says Electoral Reform Inadequate

Nearly all of the recommendations regarding electoral reform made by U.N. human rights envoy to Cambodia Surya Subedi were not put into place ahead of last month’s national election.

In his latest report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, released last week, Mr. Subedi said that in addition to a number of concerns over strength­ening the judicial and parliamentary systems were those “in relation to the context in which the elections are taking place, some of which might not be conducive to a free and fair outcome.”

The report, which was written after missions to Cambodia in December 2012 and May, also says that Mr. Subedi regretted that “most of his recommendations with regard to electoral reform have not been acted upon” and that public confidence in the voting process and the results would, therefore, likely be undermined.

“Specifically, the Special Rapporteur continues to have concerns over the independence of the NEC, freedom of expression…concerns over the integrity of the voter list, reports of intimidation of voters, and a general lack of transparency in the electoral process,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.

All the warnings expressed by Mr. Subedi have emerged as points of contention between the rul­ing CPP and opposition CNRP since the election was held on July 28. Although the NEC has announced in preliminary results that the CPP won with 68 seats to the CNRP’s 55 seats, the opposition has maintained that the results are flawed due to widespread electoral fraud.

On Sunday, the NEC announced that it would no longer investigate irregularities or mediate the standoff between the two parties because the CNRP did not submit enough evidence.

One of the most-criticized aspects of election day was that a significant number of people were unable to vote, primarily because their names did not appear on the voter list or someone else had already cast a ballot using their name.

Such possibilities were flagged in Mr. Subedi’s report, which came after he held a closed-door meeting with NEC President Im Suosdey in May.

“A key concern is the integrity of the voter registration process and subsequent voter lists,” Mr. Subedi said, referring to two separate, independent audits of the list by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia and Washington-based National Democratic Institute that “revealed flaws that would directly impact the vote.”

“The Special Rapporteur regrets that, based on the results of the first audits, the correction of the list could not have been made earlier, permitting a larger number of people to exercise their right to vote,” he said.

“He maintains his view that only a transparent check of the voter registration list, conducted through a process that allows for corrections in case of errors, will conclusively determine that exclusion from the list will not lead to a denial of the right to vote of any eligible voters. There is concern that public confidence in the process and the results of the election will be undermined.”

The human rights envoy also expressed his concern that “an excessive number of extra ballots have been printed (more than 2.5 million ballots more than registered voters),” and that he hoped they would only be used if absolutely necessary.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Monday that he had heard of the report and had been given an idea of its contents by fellow officials. However, he said many of Mr. Subedi’s recommendations would entail a change to the law.

“The recommendations and concerns of Surya Subedi are over the limit of what the NEC can do,” he said. “If Surya Subedi wants the NEC to follow his recommendations, it has to amend the rule of law first and then the NEC follows the law.”

(Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)

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