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Parties Add to Criticism of National Election Committee

An election campaign poster of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party hangs on the back of a motorized rickshaw parked at a blocked street in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

Opposition party members added to calls for reform of the National Election Committee, claiming that official results from local polls earlier this month reflect poorly on the election body.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won an overwhelming majority of commune council positions, but election monitors say they counted thousands of irregularities at local polling sites.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the irregularities were so widespread that the election should not be considered free or fair. He called the National Election Committee “a puppet of the ruling party.”

NEC officials have acknowledged some irregularities with voting, but blamed technical problems, not political bias.

The official results of the election showed the Cambodian People’s Party with control of 1,592 of 1,633 communes, representing 97 percent. The Sam Rainsy Party won 22 seats, followed by the Human Rights Party with 18.

Yim Sovann cited complicated election laws and procedures as a major reason behind the Sam Rainsy Party’s low number of commune council chiefs.

Pol Hoam, spokesman for Human Rights Party, said they would accept the results, but he disagreed with the systems put in place by the National Election Committee.

“The NEC does not belong to the CPP,” said ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yiep. “The NEC is a neutral authority joined by members from all parties.”

Opposition party officials, however, say the NEC must be reformed ahead of national elections next year.

The Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties have also discussed joining together for next year’s election.

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha told “Hello VOA” on Monday delegations from both parties will meet in Manila July 17. Asked by fans via Facebook why the opposition now needed to merge, Kem Sokha cited the destruction of natural resources, along with land grabs and ongoing corruption.

“The unification of democrats is for change,” he said.