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Cambodian Opposition Rejects Election Results

  • Robert Carmichael

Opposition National Rescue Party's Vice President Kem Sokha, center, gives a press conference at his party's office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 12, 2013.

Opposition National Rescue Party's Vice President Kem Sokha, center, gives a press conference at his party's office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 12, 2013.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) says it will not accept election results announced Monday by the National Election Committee, which show a victory for the ruling party. The opposition continues to insist that an independent investigation into alleged voting irregularities must be held into a ballot both sides claim they won.

The country's National Election Committee (NEC), the body that oversees elections, said Monday that results indicate the ruling party won the majority of votes in the July 28 poll.

The NEC said the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen had taken 19 of the 24 provinces, winning around 3.2 million votes to the opposition's 2.95 million.

Those results are largely in line with preliminary estimates released shortly after the July 28 vote. If confirmed, they would give the CPP around 68 parliamentary seats and the opposition 55 seats. The NEC will release the seat allocation figures at an undetermined later date.

The outcome of the election marked a significant setback for the ruling party, which won 90 seats in the 123-seat parliament at the last election, and an astonishing result for the opposition, which nearly doubled the number of seats it held.

But the opposition CNRP reckons it won outright although it has yet to provide evidence of that claim. On Monday it rejected the NEC's figures.

The opposition wants an independent investigation into what it says was massive voting fraud, and has been talking to the ruling party about setting up a joint committee.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay claimed Monday that the NEC was complicit in voting fraud, and so could not be trusted to investigate itself.

“If [the] NEC have nothing to hide or [the] CPP have nothing to hide, they should allow this process to take place in a more transparent way," said Son. "It will help to satisfy the people. If there's nothing wrong [that] will be OK. I think we will be willing to accept that.”

The opposition is also annoyed at the NEC's timing in releasing provisional results, because the CNRP and the ruling party are still discussing the composition of the investigation team.

“We believe that this announcement does not help to solve the problem of irregularities and also jeopardizes the effort that made by the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the CPP in bringing about to set up the investigation body to investigate all the irregularities," said Son. "And also the announcement could help to stir up unrest [for] which NEC must take full responsibility.”

The opposition's refusal to accept the results without a full investigation comes at a tense time: late last week the government deployed troops to the capital to deal with any violent demonstrations.

Son Chhay said the opposition was committed to resolving the issue through negotiations, adding that peaceful protests remained a last resort.

The NEC's announced results also come as King Sihamoni, a constitutional monarch who is head of state, flew to China Monday for medical treatment.

The Royal Palace insists that this is a scheduled trip for a regular check-up. But the timing of the king's departure has drawn notice, not least because in his absence, the leader of the Senate becomes the acting head of state. That is Chea Sim, the president of the ruling party.

Also Monday a coalition of 10 civil society organizations called on the NEC to delay releasing the final results of the poll until the proposed joint committee has properly investigated the election.

The coalition, whose representatives met with Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Friday, also asked all stakeholders to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and reaffirm their commitment to a peaceful resolution.

For now, though, Cambodia remains in a state of political limbo, and many citizens will be hoping that the election result will be concluded peacefully.