NEC to Release Election Results Before Resolving Complaints

The National Election Committee (NEC) will release preliminary election results at 9 a.m. today despite ongoing talks between the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP over how to investigate alleged irregularities in the electoral process.

“On Monday August 12, 2013 at 9:00 a.m., the NEC will an­nounce preliminary election results of the national election for the fifth National Assembly mandate via television and national radio,” the NEC said in a statement Sunday. 

The NEC also announced it will not investigate irregularities reported by the CNRP because the party did not provide enough evidence of alleged voter list manipulation and election fraud on the part of the NEC and CPP.

“The [CNRP] did not provide supporting evidence to the NEC, as the party will only provide that evidence to a special committee to investigate irregularities and evaluate the impact of the election,” the statement says. “There­fore, the NEC could not examine those reports.”

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Sunday that today’s results would not include details on seat allocation inside the National Assembly.

“We will not announce the seats. The preliminary result will announce only the [total number of] votes in every province and we will wait to retrieve any complaints from any political parties, then we will solve those complaints before announcing the final result with National As­sembly seats” before Sep­tember 8, Mr. Nytha said.

NEC President Im Suosdey said that his commission could not wait for the CPP and CNRP to come to an agreement on investigating the election before releasing preliminary results, though he offered little reasoning for this decision.

“The joint [investigation] committee? We are moving forward. We cannot wait for them,” he said.

Widely seen as being aligned with the CPP, the NEC was not present on Friday as the CPP and CNRP sat down at the National Assembly for an initial round of talks to form an investigative body to probe allegations of irregularities and verify polling results following an election in which both sides claimed victory.

Hours after polling ended on July 28, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith announced on his Facebook page that the CPP had won 68 seats to 55 for the CNRP. Two days later, CNRP president Sam Rainsy claimed that his party won 63 seats to 60 for the CPP.

Though the two parties agreed in principle during Friday’s meeting to allow the U.N. to observe the investigation, there remains little common ground on the composition of the investigating body that would serve as mediator between the two parties in resolving the current impasse.

The office of the U.N.’s resident coordinator said Sunday that it had yet to receive an official invitation to participate in any capacity in a post-election investigation.

“Should a formal request be received, the United Nations would seek further information on the terms of reference of such an investigation committee,” Philip Sen, communications officer for the U.N. in Cambodia, said in an email.

Still, according to the guidelines of the U.N.’s Department of Political Affairs, the U.N. would be unlikely to give electoral assistance to Cambodia, given the pres­ent circumstances.

Though “electoral dispute resolution” is listed among the types of “technical assistance” that can be provided by the U.N., the Department of Political Affairs’ website says that “Normally a request made less than four months before election day cannot be accommodated.”

It also says that “Requests from political parties, civil society or other entities are not considered,” meaning that a request would likely have to come from the NEC or other government bodies relevant to the electoral process.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Sunday that the CNRP would ignore whatever results are released by the NEC today and continue to work with the CPP to form a joint committee to inspect voter lists and investigate alleged fraud and other electoral irregularities.

“The NEC is part of the problem. So put [the] NEC aside and we will focus on the resolution between the two parties. So we still stand by our political stance; we do not recognize the outcome of the election,” Mr. Sovann said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap on Sunday reiterated claims by his party that the NEC is the only legally viable option in resolving electoral disputes.

“By the election law, the NEC has full rights to solve the issue and there is no other authority that can do it. It is the right of the NEC to solve all disputes be­tween political parties,” Mr. Yeap said.

While the NEC has released unofficial preliminary results that indicate a similar outcome to that claimed by the CPP, election monitors and political observers said Sunday that releasing official results at this point could heighten an already tense post-election environment.

“I think the NEC should give serious considerations to the current efforts of the two parties—the CPP and CNRP—trying to settle the election problem through the investigation,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

“I am concerned about that, if NEC tries to ignore this effort. Otherwise they will make [one of the parties] disappointed in NEC decision” and perhaps complicate ongoing negotiations, he said.

While political analyst Chea Vannath noted that it was standard practice for an election body to hand down results of an election before they are contested, she said that given the lack of credibility currently afforded to the NEC, its results would be unlikely to advance talks between the CPP and CNRP.

“Is the purpose to settle down the differences or just to pass the buck to other institutions? I think they [the NEC] should think about what they can do in the name of peace, to calm down public sentiment. The NEC should not rush to issue the election result,” she said.

Once the NEC releases its preliminary results, political parties can challenge the results with the NEC or file a challenge directly with the Constitutional Council of Cambodia, which would then hand down a final decision on election results by September 8.

While the CNRP and CPP remain at odds over what a post-election investigation would look like, independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said it was in both parties’ best interest to come to an agreement soon.

“Considering the militant mood of the CNRP supporters, I don’t think any prolonged [negotiation] or delay would be good for the sake of peace and stability in the country. And [apart from demonstrations], what else can the CNRP resort to?” said Mr. Mong Hay.

“So if you cannot settle the issue in the meeting room, then you may have to settle in the street, which is not good for all,” he added.

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