The Constitutional Council today will begin considering whether to accept opposition complaints of poll fraud, following five days of investigation into the evidence presented, a council member said Tuesday.
“The Constitutional Council will use the results of the investigation to decide how many complaints should be accepted and how many will not be accepted,” said council member Bin Chhin.
Investigation teams have spent five days looking into complaints in five different provinces, looking at evidence and taking witness testimony, he said.
Opposition parties have called on the council to consider recounts in roughly 800 communes, or about half of all counting centers, where provisional results are disputed.
The council’s team have conducted investigations in an unspecified number of complaints in the provinces of Kompong Speu, Kompong Chhnang, Kandal, Kompong Cham and Svay Rieng, Bin Chhin said.
He did not say how many complaints were likely to be accepted, saying only that “if the complaints contain enough documents to substantiate the allegations, then we will accept it. And if it is not enough, we will not accept it.”
By law, the council has until Saturday to rule on any election disputes.
Bin Chhin said the council was also looking into the opposition’s complaint that the National Election Committee halted recounting of disputed communes after only eight were completed. None of the recounts turned up any hard evidence of fraud.
Bin Chhin said the council would summon top NEC officials, including the chairman, Chheng Phon, and vice-chairman, Kassie Neou to explain why the counts had stopped. NEC officials have defended the decision on the grounds that the electoral law gives only 48 hours to rule on election complaints, and said they stopped when that time limit expired.
Bin Chhin also said the council would look into why the NEC had ordered the recounts in the first place, saying the law did not stipulate such an action.
Article 111 of the electoral law, which deals with the handling of complaints by the NEC, says the committee must “examine and determine whether to validate the results or to organize an election.”
One legal expert said Bin Chhin’s assertion that recounting might not be allowed on the grounds that it is not explicitly ordered was “ludicrous.”
“He’s splitting hairs,” the expert said. “How else could you examine the results? The ballots aren’t just [at the NEC] being looked after for the sake of it…They are there in the event that they need to recount them.”
(Additional reporting by Catherine Philp)
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