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NEC dismisses NGO report alleging election irregularities

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The National Election Committee headquarters in Phnom Penh seen on September 28. Hong Menea

NEC dismisses NGO report alleging election irregularities

The National Election Committee (NEC) has rejected an NGO report which cited irregularities and mistakes in 5th-mandate commune council election process held on June 5.

NEC spokesman Som Sorida said the report by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL) was inaccurate, saying the electoral process was assessed by national and international observers to be run smoothly, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law.

In its eight-page summary report, COMFREL claimed to have found some irregularities in the application of the election law and NEC’s own regulations.

The report said the amendments in 2015 and further changes to the commune election law, regulations and procedures in place for the 4th-mandate 2017 commune council elections were found to have more negative impacts than positive.

According to COMFREL, the will of the electorate when voting for elected representative is never guaranteed in Cambodia because the election law provides for the distribution of seats as a result of victories by political parties, but the Supreme Court in 2017 dissolved the Cambodia National Resue Party (CNRP) and redistributed the seats they had won in the election to other parties, which was not the desire or intention held by the electorate.

Second, COMFREL said, the “use” of the courts to charge opposition party members with criminal offences in order to invalidate their election was obviously done outside of standard election procedures.

On the positive side, the report noted some improvements to the June 5 election process, such as the reform of the voter registration system and the preparation of the new voter list as well as the arrangements for political party logos in public places.

Sorida told The Post on September 28 that NEC had not yet seen the report, but that those who ran the election and the official observers had different views from COMFREL regarding the 5th-mandate commune elections.

The spokesman stressed that NEC organised the elections in accordance with the law and regulations and procedures, and these included the election manual as well as the calendar and master plan for the poll.

Sorida said that, in general, the June 5 elections were considered by the majority of those voicing opinions both nationally and internationally as a fair contest in line with the principles of a liberal multi-party democracy.

He further noted that they viewed the elections as being better organised in accordance with the legal and technical requirements for elections under Cambodian law compared to the previous polls.

Sorida added that the elections were an accurate reflection of the will of more than 80 per cent of Cambodians who voted, and that following the people’s will was one of the key factors that brought peace, order and public security thereafter.

“Thus, if we look at the general process, the elections went smoothly in accordance with the principles set out in the law, regulations and procedures in an environment of security, safety and public order. There was no violence and no threats made. All complaints were resolved before the official election results were announced,” he said.

According to Sorida, COMFREL and its allies did not issue any statement before the elections and ballot counting, and had only issued a report after the fact looking for mistakes. He said some of what they viewed as errors cannot be considered mistakes because it was determined by the rules that the NEC was required to implement.

He stated that another point that COMFREL mentioned in its report about the members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and civil servants participating in political activities were a misunderstanding of the law. RCAF and civil servants, it explained, have the right to participate in election campaign activities if they do so outside of work-related settings and outside of any area where they have jurisdiction.

He added that the presence of local authorities boosts security, safety and public order because the law binds authorities to cooperate with the NEC before, during and after an election.

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