Election Was Not Free or Fair, Coalition of 21 NGOs Says
By | September 7, 2013

The entire election process was neither free nor fair, as it was marred by the interference of government officials and evidence of more than 10,000 cases of voting irregularities, according to an evaluation conducted by local NGOs and election monitors.

A group of 21 NGOs—which dubbed themselves The Situation Room—found that serious problems existed in the lead-up to the July 28 poll and continued through the post-election period.

“The environment of intimidation, the threats made, the lack of fairness and integrity of the proc­ess and administration of the election affected the results of the election by giving the ruling party an unfair advantage,” the groups said in a joint statement Friday.

“The election results do not fully reflect the will of the voters.”

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, told a press conference on Friday that the participation of government officials, armed forces, police and local authorities in campaigning for the ruling CPP contributed to an environment of intimidation.

“This often disturbed or prevented the campaign of other parties,” he said, adding that the lack of media access for parties other than Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP to broadcast their message contributed to an unfair pre-election environment.

Mr. Sam Oeun also said the NGOs found more than 10,000 cases of voting irregularities on election day, including the transportation of voters from one prov­ince to vote in another and the indelible ink that was used to identify voters who had cast their ballots, which, it was found, could be easily removed. There were also missing names and duplicate names on the voter lists at polling stations.

The post-election period has not fared much better as the National Election Committee  [NEC] and Constitutional Coun­cil of Cambodia—which both have strong ties to the ruling party—are not considered independent. Com­plaints submitted by the opposition CNRP to be reviewed by the Constitutional Council were not fairly reviewed, the statement says.

“There is partiality and lack of independence of the election organizing institutions and election dispute resolutions—specially the National Election Com­mittee and the Consti­tutional Council of Cambodia—with a lack of transparency and a lack of justice in fulfilling their duties and their roles,” Mr. Sam Oeun said, adding that recommendations from monitors on electoral re­form were ignored.

The 21 NGOs and election monitors are calling for the membership and structure of the NEC and Constitutional Council to be reformed.

“The election law should be reviewed and it’s better to bring back the idea we used to raise in the past about creating a separate election court,” Mr. Sam Oeun said.

The findings by the NGOs echo an August report by the U.N. human rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi.

Mr. Subedi expressed concern over the NEC’s lack of independence, the lack of freedom of expression, the integrity of the voter lists and “a general lack of transparency in the electoral process.”

Though the NEC’s preliminary results give the CPP a victory, the opposition has maintained that the results are flawed due to widespread electoral fraud.

Tep Nytha, NEC secretary-general, said Friday that he welcomed the NGOs recommendations, but he continued to defend his organization of the electoral process.

“The NEC just implemented procedures as stipulated by the law. It’s [the NGOs’] right to ask for reform, but I wouldn’t comment on their evaluation because they only came to these conclusions based on their observations,” Mr. Nytha said.

Mr. Nytha also claimed that the NEC was independent, saying that all NEC members had resigned from their political parties when they began working for the election body.

“Compared to previous elections, we have done much development and improvement.”

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Forty-seven garment workers and a driver were injured when the truck in which they were traveling crashed in Svay Rieng province on Monday evening, police, doctors and union officials said on Tuesday.

Municipal officials on Tuesday announced a new initiative to help rehabilitate Phnom Penh’s drug addicts by offering discreet treatment services at local health centers.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng told an audience of university graduates on Tuesday that recent efforts to clean up the education system would extend to his ministry to combat claims that the civil service is plagued by nepotism.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday returned from his one-day trip to China, where he met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and requested the country keep its interest rate low for Chinese loans to Cambodia, as well as provide concessional loans to advance Cambodia’s rice industry and assist in the country’s national defense, an official said.

All 11 activists who were detained by police in Koh Kong province on Monday for preventing a convoy of government vehicles from reaching the Areng Valley, where villagers have been protesting a controversial hydropower dam project, were released early on Tuesday morning but vowed to continue fighting the project.

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