PHNOM PENH - The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has officially rejected the results of last month’s national elections and says it will not negotiate with the ruling party over elections earlier this month until a UN-backed investigation into allegations of irregularities is conducted.
Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy told supporters gathered in Phnom Penh on Tuesday that he will not accept the National Election Committee’s proposed investigation commission’s result if it investigates independently.
If the government’s election body cannot find a way to reflect the will of the voters, we will lead demonstrations, he said.
CPP officials have said they won the election, with 68 of 123 National Assembly seats. But opposition leaders, as well as a wide array of election monitors, say the elections were marred by irregularities and voter fraud.
That included the exclusion of many voters from local registries, duplicate names on voter lists, and easily washable ink meant to stain the fingers of voters to prevent multiple votes.
Sam Rainsy, who was able to return to Cambodia just ahead of elections due to a royal pardon, has said the irregularities, taken together, cost the opposition the election.
In a letter to the National Election Committee Tuesday, Sam Rainsy officially rejected the results.
“The CPP cannot hang on to power like before,” he told a gathering of supporters at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh. “In the past, they stole ballots but managed to cling to power, but absolutely not this time.”
Under Cambodian law, newly elected lawmakers must convene within 60 days of the official election results, in order to form a new National Assembly. The Assembly will then debate appointments for the executive branch. By refusing to join the Assembly, the opposition could legally tie up the formation of a new government.
Chheang Vun, a lawmaker for the CPP, told VOA Khmer the opposition should accept the seats it won, with 55, and begin talks to form a new legislature.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “People voted them in to take part in building the nation. I think it’s time to meet and settle the problem. What they want, just talk it over so that people won’t live in fear anymore.”
NEC officials say they are willing to form a commission to investigate irregularities. But the National Election Committee has been roundly criticized for bias toward the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“The NEC regrets not being able to form a commission as [Sam Rainsy] requested,” the agency’s secretary-general, Tep Nitha, said Tuesday. “However, the NEC will try to resolve the irregularities that took place on Election Day using existing mechanisms and procedures, which includes setting up a commission to investigate irregularities as reported so far.”
Sam Rainsy told supporters Tuesday he would not settle for an NEC investigation without international participation.
“Everybody, be prepared to hold a mass protest,” he said. “Phnom Penh residents, please stand up! People in the provinces, please stand up together! The sun has risen, so we have to get up. We’re up now. Our eyes are open now. We’re not sleepy anymore. Will you go back to sleep if they put you back to bed?”