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Cambodian Opposition Rejects Election Results - 2003-07-29

Cambodia's two main opposition parties are rejecting pending results of Sunday's elections. The parties allege fraud and vote manipulation, and say the results reported by state-run television are not acceptable. The country faces another potential deadlock like the one that gripped Cambodia in the last election.

The Sam Rainsy Party and the royalist party known as Funcinpec jointly announced Tuesday their rejection of the currently known election results.

Citing alleged fraud and vote-buying by the ruling Cambodia Peoples' Party, or CPP, Sam Rainsy says his party and Funcinpec do not accept the results broadcast by government media, which are under CPP control.

"There is definitely a deadlock in Cambodia," said Mr. Rainsy. "The two main parties opposing the CPP are now together. And we are strongly and firmly rejecting the result of the election."

Sam Rainsy and Prince Sirivudh of Funcinpec say they want to see official results from the National Election Committee, which will be released August 8, before rendering a final judgment. But they warned they would reject the final official results if they mirror the CPP-disseminated tallies.

The election results broadcast by government media make the CPP the clear winner, but still falling short of the two-thirds majority necessary to govern alone. The Sam Rainsy Party was in second place with Funcinpec, the junior coalition partner in the last CPP government, in third.

In 1998, the dispute over poll results erupted into sporadic violence. Sam Rainsy says people may again take to the streets over this election's results. "We do not exclude any possibility," he insisted. "We will protest. But we will use only legal, peaceful, nonviolent democratic means. This includes street demonstrations."

International judgment on the elections was mixed. In a preliminary assessment, the International Republican Institute, an arm of the U.S. Republican Party, said the polls were an improvement over 1998. But observer delegation chair Christine Todd Whitman said the elections were marred by what she termed subtle intimidation and questionable vote counting.

"These elections were an improvement over the last election cycle in Cambodia," said Ms. Whitman, "but they still fell short of recognized international standards."

But former Canadian ambassador Gordon Longmuir, who headed another election observer team from the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, came to a different conclusion. "I think that in many ways this election more than met international standards. I am certainly not aware of any instances, have not seen any evidence of tampering or manipulation," said Ambassador Longmuir."

Cambodia needs its elections to be seen as credible in the eyes of the international community in order to protect its much-needed foreign aid.