PHNOM PENH - Cambodia’s opposition party will meet with its supporters Wednesday to gather evidence of election irregularities, following major apparent gains in elections Sunday.
Leaders of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party say they believe they would have won free and fair elections and are challenging early results of a ruling party victory.
They are now seeking evidence to bolster those claims for national and international observers, Sam Rainsy, president of the Rescue Party, said at his party headquarters in Phnom Penh Tuesday.
“There were many victims who lost their voting rights,” Sam Rainsy said. “They wanted to vote but were not able to do so because their names were stolen or left out in tricks to prevent the majority of the Cambodian people from voting.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party held 90 of 123 National Assembly seats going into Sunday’s election. CPP officials said late Sunday the party had lost 22 seats, but that it had won the election with 68. According to those early figures, the opposition won 55 seats.
But Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer on Monday that his party had kept its own tallies, and that those show a 63-seat win for the opposition.
In Cambodia’s parliamentary system, a party with 51 percent of National Assembly seats or higher has the right to form the executive branch. CPP officials said Tuesday they had won and that they intend to maintain Hun Sen as prime minister.
Government officials rejected calls for an international inquiry into the opposition allegations, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The news agency quoted Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, rejecting allegations of fraud.
“We have over 10,000 national observers and over 100 international observers who reckoned our election was held in a peaceful manner without any violence, free and fair,” he was quoted saying. “The opposition party should be asked to show clearly what evidence it has about the irregularities it alleges. The National Election Committee has already said ‘please bring up evidence, don’t just say it, so we can work together to solve things.’”
Meanwhile, security around the homes of Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were reinforced following voting Sunday that saw many opposition supporters upset, creating a tense atmosphere in anticipation of official results.
Tep Nitha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, told VOA Khmer on Tuesday that the election body was tabulating votes and investigating 29 separate complaints. Official results are expected no earlier than Aug. 10, he said.
In the meantime, two election-monitoring groups, Comfrel and Nicfec, have called on the NEC to make public any documents related to its voter lists, so that they can be independently examined and verified.
In a statement Monday, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Cathernie Ashton, called on supporters of both sides to maintain “a peaceful and democratic spirit” in the wake of the election.
While congratulating Cambodians on their “peaceful and calm conduct” on Election Day, she noted that the NEC did not take all measures recommended by the EU to address “shortcomings” in the election process, “such as improving the reliability of the voter list, ensuring equitable access to media and preventing the use of State resources, including campaigning by civil servants and the military.”
The NEC has come under heavy scrutiny this election cycle, with widespread complaints it is biased toward the ruling party and has done little to improve flaws in the election process that favor the CPP. It has denied those claims.
Ahead of the elections, rights groups and election monitors noted a number of irregularities, saying that names were left off voter registries, that many voters had trouble getting their IDs, that the national voter list contained duplicate names, and that the “indelible” ink meant to prevent multiple votes by one person was easily washed off. Added to that were complaints of unequal access to media, where the CPP and its supporters have a near monopoly on radio and television, and the participation of state employees and their resources in the campaign.
Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer on Monday that as many as 1.2 million voter names had been removed from the national registry, while 200,000 names on it were duplicates.
“It’s very unjust for Cambodians, and I know that the Cambodian people will not accept this,” he said. “If [election officials] insist on using the figure declared by the CPP, we absolutely do not accept it.” If those numbers become the official result, he said, “I believe there will be a massive rally from the Cambodian people.”