— Cambodia’s election remains mired in controversy, with both the ruling party and the opposition declaring victory in the July 28 ballot. The leader of Cambodia’s opposition, Sam Rainsy, said Thursday that a committee to investigate alleged electoral irregularities remains the only acceptable solution to the ongoing political stalemate.
Sam Rainsy told VOA Thursday that a working group established by parliamentarians from the ruling party and the opposition to discuss forming an investigating committee appears to have fallen short of an agreement.
But he said the process had proved useful.
“It’s part of the protocol - right, it’s just to show that we have tried, successively, at different levels. At the end, the top leaders must talk directly. It has been useful in preparing for dialogue at the top level,” he said.
Both the ruling Cambodian People's Party, or CPP, and Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, claim they won the election. The opposition says nationwide vote rigging swayed the outcome.
Rainsy stressed that the opposition would not compromise on its demand for a transparent investigation, and said the “full truth” must be exposed. Should that show that the ruling party had indeed won, Rainsy pledged that the opposition would accept it.
“We commit in advance. But on the other hand - the CPP must make the same commitment. If that after checking with witnesses - after checking that the figures were wrong - and it is actually the CNRP who won, they must accept this result as the real and the final result,” he said.
Last week the National Election Committee, or NEC, - the body that oversees elections - said preliminary results showed the ruling CPP had won a majority of seats in the 123-member parliament.
In recent days the NEC finished investigating complaints, and rejected all of the opposition’s submissions. The opposition said that was no surprise, given the NEC’s close ties to the ruling party.
The opposition’s complaints are now with the Constitutional Court - the country’s highest judicial body. Most of its appointees are connected to the ruling party.
Rainsy held out little hope the Court will be able to resolve issues to the opposition’s satisfaction. The opposition has pressed for an independent group to examine election irregularities.
Rainsy also insisted that a large peaceful rally planned for Monday was not to protest the election results, but to explain to its supporters what it has been doing, and to hear from its supporters what actions they would like it to take.
Ahead of that rally, Rainsy said he and deputy party leader Kem Sokha will also travel to other parts of the country.
“The purpose is to remain in touch with the voters, because we are accountable to the voters," he said. "Voters have voted in unprecedented numbers for us - they want to know: What are you going to do with our votes? Are you going to sell our votes to the CPP? Or you are going to defend the ideas that were contained, the hopes that were contained?”
Meantime residents in Phnom Penh have told local media that the authorities have forced them to sign statements saying they support the provisional election result and promising not to join any protests.
Government officials told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that thousands of people had signed the statements, but claimed they had done so voluntarily.
Cambodian rights groups and election monitors have condemned it as intimidation and said compelling people to sign was incompatible with free and fair elections.
In recent weeks the government has dispatched troops and armored vehicles to the capital, ostensibly to keep order in the event of post-election violence.
Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), visits a polling station during the general elections in Phnom Penh, July 28, 2013.
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen shows his inked finger after casting his ballot in Takhmau town, south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 28, 2013. Hun Sen has been on the job for 28 years.
An election official shows a ballot paper in Phnom Penh, July 28, 2013.
Heng Samrin, president of Cambodia's National Assembly, casts his vote at the polling station number 0370 at Outdor primary school in Kampong Cham town, July 28, 2013. (Heng Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)
Riot policemen protect a man accused of trying to hit a Buddhist monk, during protests against alleged election irregularities in Phnom Penh July 28, 2013.
A police vehicle burns following a brief clash at the end of election day in Phnom Penh July 28, 2013.
Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, president of the royalist FUNCIPEC Party, casts her vote a polling station at the Teaksin primary school in Kampong Cham town, northeast of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh. (Heng Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)
A scene at a polling station in Kampong Cham town, northeast of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh. (Heng Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)
Scene at a polling station in Prey Veng town, in Cambodia's eastern Prey Veng province, July 28, 2013. (Kong Sothanarith/VOA Khmer)