The U.S. State Department on Monday again called for a transparent investigation into alleged irregularities during the July national election, but fell short of denouncing the official results released by the National Election Committee (NEC) on Sunday.
Like many Western democracies, the U.S. has not endorsed the election and was among the first to raise concerns with the vote and call for an impartial investigation into widespread reports of fraud.
At a press briefing in Washington on Monday—the day after it was announced the ruling CPP had officially won the ballot—U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf reiterated the U.S.’ wish to see the reported irregularities properly investigated.
“We, obviously, have commended the Cambodian people for expressing their views in a nonviolent manner,” she said, according to a transcript of the briefing posted on the State Department’s website.
“We do still believe that a transparent review of irregularities in the July elections would help efforts to assess and address flaws in the electoral process and give the Cambodian people greater confidence in their electoral system.
“And we are continuing to urge all parties, as we have, to seize this opportunity to improve their democratic processes going forward,” she said.
But when repeatedly asked by an unidentified reporter at the briefing what the U.S. thought of the NEC’s decision to release official election results in the absence of such a review, Ms. Harf demurred.
“I’m not going to say it’s a good or bad thing. We still have concerns about some of the irregularities,” she said.
Asked again if the U.S. had a position on the matter, Ms. Harf again refused to answer.
“It means I’m just not going to use your words,” she persisted.
On Tuesday, U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh added that the U.S. hoped to see the CPP and opposition CNRP, which still claims victory in the July 28 poll, return to the negotiating table to resolve their differences over the election.
The two parties have failed to reach a compromise thus far, with the government continuing to reject the CNRP’s demand for an independent investigation.
Amid the political deadlock, the CNRP has organized a mass protest in Phnom Penh on Sunday against the election results and is planning several more in the coming days. It also plans to boycott the first meeting of the National Assembly later this month in hopes of stalling the formation of the next government.
A handful of countries have endorsed the election results and congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen on his victory, though most of them are either communist states or flawed democracies. On Monday, East Timor, whose prime minister, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, wrapped up a state visit to Cambodia and became the first country to congratulate Mr. Hun Sen since the official results were released.
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)