EU Diplomat Sends Letter of Congratulations to Opposition

The European Union’s (E.U.) high commissioner has sent a letter to CNRP president Sam Rainsy congratulating him on the opposition’s performance in last month’s national election and encouraging him to settle claims of electoral irregularities through prompt and peaceful measures.

The only previous reaction from the E.U. over the election came two days after the vote when E.U. High Commissioner Catherine Ashton said in a statement she was disappointed efforts had not been made to repair the national voter list and refrained from congratulating Prime Minister Hun Sen on his apparent victory.

In her Monday letter, Ms. Ashton congratulated Mr. Rainsy on the CNRP’s increased slice of the vote in July’s election, which according to the preliminary election results released on Monday saw the party win 55 seats to the CPP’s 68.

“The preliminary results of the parliamentary elections in Cam­bodia show remarkable gains by your party and I would like to congratulate you on this achievement,” Ms. Ashton wrote, adding that she was pleased the elections had been conducted peacefully despite some “shortcomings.”

“I understand that alleged irregularities will have to be dealt with before the final result can be announced,” she added.

“To this end, I strongly, encourage your party to swiftly come to an agreement with all stakeholders involved on an adequate mechanism to deal with those issue.”

The E.U. has previously said that Cambodia’s 2008 national election failed to meet international standards, and declined to send observers to last month’s election.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Wednesday that despite the fact that the CPP had not been congratulated by the E.U. on its election victory, it was not concerned about Ms. Ashton’s letter to Mr. Rainsy as the ruling party had already received many letters of congratulations from other sources.

“We have had many friends and other governments congratulate us, including [U.N. Secretary-General] His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, the U.N., the U.S. Embassy, China, Vietnam, Laos, and other countries in Asean,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy in the wake of elections congratulated “the Cambodian people” on holding a peaceful election. But the U.S. State Department called for an investigation into irregularities at the poll.

For his part, Mr. Ban “welcomed” the peaceful conduct of the election, but encouraged authorities to “deal fairly and transparently with any complaints of irregularities.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that the letter from Ms. Ashton stemmed from a shared support for justice and democracy and was appreciated by the opposition.

“Any input from the international community, from the U.N. and the E.U., is very helpful to our country,” he said.

“We cannot stand alone, and we have to have good friends around the world in order for political and economic development.”

Mr. Sovann added that Ms. Ashton’s words of encouragement for a peaceful and prompt investigation into election irregularities should be heeded by the ruling party.

“This is the stance of the E.U., so the CPP has to think of the people’s interests—if we are isolated, if we are not supported by other countries, it cannot govern.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he thought Ms. Ashton’s call for the opposition “to swiftly come to an agreement” with the CPP and National Election Committee over its claims of election irregularities was the most important part of the high commissioner’s letter.

“The congratulations is telling Sam Rainsy to go back to work as the opposition,” he said, insisting that there was no problem with the E.U. having not yet congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen for his election victory.

“I don’t see any offense at all,” he said.

“They congratulated that the election ran smoothly, so they have congratulated Hun Sen already.”

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