Philip Ruddock, who served as Australia’s immigration minister between 1996 and 2003 and now serves as the government’s chief parliamentary whip, has described Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government as a “one-party state,” and said that Australia is concerned about the shooting deaths of five strike protesters in January.
The National Election Committee (NEC) on Tuesday stood firmly behind its refusal to consider a proposal by the opposition CNRP for an independent investigation into the July 28 national ballot.
Statements sent between the CNRP and NEC—the last day for political parties to file reports of election irregularities—made it clear that both sides have not come any closer to breaking a political impasse that the opposition party says is necessary before it will accept defeat in the election.
“Regarding documents proving election irregularities occurred during the fifth mandate of National Assembly election held on July 28, 2013, the Cambodia National Rescue Party will disclose [them publicly] when a special committee is created to investigate the irregularities and evaluate the impact of the election result,” a letter sent Tuesday from CNRP president Sam Rainsy to NEC President Im Suosdey says.
The letter proposes that the NEC play the role of coordinator of the investigation into the CNRP’s accusations of widespread cheating and fraud on the part of the ruling CPP, and allow the U.N. to step into the role of arbitrator between the two parties.
In response, the NEC sent a letter to the CNRP saying that political parties, election monitors and international observers would only be invited to “monitor” an NEC sub-committee tasked with conducting the investigation.
“The NEC very much regrets not being able to meet your request to create a special committee as Your Excellency has requested,” the letter says.
“However, the NEC will try to settle the irregularities on election day in accordance with legal mechanisms, existing directives and procedures as well as the creation of a sub-committee in compliance with internal rules of the NEC and participation through monitoring by representatives of contesting political parties, national and international election observers,” the NEC’s response says.
On the night of the election, the CPP claimed victory with 68 National Assembly seats to 55 for the CNRP. Two days later, Mr. Rainsy claimed that his party won the election with 63 seats to 60 for the ruling party.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said that although it has yet to review all of the complaints that have been filed with commune and provincial election committees, the NEC planned to push ahead with releasing official preliminary results on Saturday, and official final results in September.
“It doesn’t matter how many reports political parties and civil society submit, we will try our best to settle them and we will release final [preliminary] results by August 10 even if there is a challenge from political parties,” Mr. Nytha said.
“The NEC will stick with the timetable and will not delay over the date on which final results will be announced. It will be released, according to the timetable, no later than September 8,” he added.
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said that the opposition party would be willing to play a role in choosing which group is tasked with conducting the investigation, but would not settle for an inquiry led by the NEC, or an investigating committee composed of only the NEC and the two political parties.
“They need to meet us halfway. We can discuss who [the independent investigator] would be. Any neutral organization or group who has the ability to conduct this investigation could be considered,” he said.
“We will look to any possibility to find justice for the public, but to have two out of three members under the CPP, we have no hope of finding a situation that would be acceptable to both the CPP and us.”
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