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Fair Elections, With Irregularities: Observers

International monitors, observers and rights groups stopped short of calling Sunday's polls unfree or unfair this week, though at least one mission said the parliamentary election did not meet international standards.

Japan's monitoring mission supported the election as credible, while EU observers said many irregularities, including intimidation, vote-buying and unfair use of the media by the ruling party marred the election standards.

"The [Japanese] mission members witnessed no violent activities, intimidation or irregularities that may undermine the overall credibility of the election," the Japanese Embassy said in a statement. "The Mission considers that the 2008 National Assembly election has shown[n] an impression internally and externally for its democratic advancement in the Kingdom of Cambodia."

Irregularities took place ahead of and on Election Day, said Martin Callanan, chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission. The CPP used state resources and government property to campaign and swayed voters with money and gifts, he said.

Election booths allowed the use of unauthorized identification forms, and about 50,000 voter names were omitted from registries, he told VOA Khmer.

Asked whether the elections were free and fair, Callanan said he had no role in that decision, which was up to the Cambodian people to decide.

Voters turned out in a "peaceful and orderly way" on Sunday, Callanan added in a statement. "It is disappointing that this commitment was not reflected in the overall electoral process, which fell short of a number of key international standards."

The Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia said Tuesday the election had been "administered well and largely free of intimidation and violence."

But the election was also "marred" by a number of irregularities, including the omission of a "significant" number of voter names for registries.

In sample observations of 378 polling stations, the group said, at least a quarter of them "reported more than five cases of voters who had proper identity documents but could not find their names on the voters list."

"Since many voters who could not find their names on the list did not bother to enter the polling station, this figure likely under-represents the true scale of the problem," Nicfec said.

A US spokesman said that while their appeared to be "some irregularities," the "vast majority" of Cambodians were able to express their will.

"Of course we are concerned about the irregularities that were spoken out today by some of the parties and right now we are coordinating with the impartial and neutral observers from the embassy and from the other international observing of another country to see if can understand what those were,” US Embassy spokesman John Johnson told VOA Khmer.

"We are aware that some political parties have raised questions about the electoral process, and it appears that there were some irregularities which prevented some Cambodians from expressing their will, although the vast majority was able to do so," Johnson added in an e-mail. "There are existing mechanisms by which these parties can address their concerns and we encourage them to work within this framework. However, we remain concerned about the irregularities and are coordinating with Embassy and other neutral observers to further our understanding of them."

Mar Sophal said, chief of monitoring for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said around 60,000 voter names were omitted from voter registries.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nitha said 58,500 names were deleted from voter registries ahead of the elections, but that number had been exaggerated by some.

"If they say there are 2 million names missing, it could be an exaggerated number from a political party or NGOs," he said.

Ahead of the elections, Human Rights Watch had cautioned observers to monitor the elections carefully.

Cambodia had a "real history" of Election-Day problems, as well as irregularities ahead of the polls, Sophie Richardson, an advocacy director for the group based in Washington, told VOA Khmer Friday.

Ahead of the elections, monitors noted that the campaign period had seen seven murders and 56 cases of physical abuse.

The UN's rights office issued a statement Tuesday claiming it found "no credible evidence" of political motivation in the killings.