DPM Sok An Rejects ERA Report

image003Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers image005H.E. Sok An rejected yesterday the Election Reform Alliance (ERA)’s report on the 2013 Cambodian Elections.

Addressing to some 1,500 representatives of government ministries and institutions, National Assembly, Senate and media at the Office of the Council of Ministers yesterday afternoon, H.E. Sok An said the ERA report was made to distort the facts, to mislead national and international milieus and to satisfy the opposition politicians only.

The Cambodian DPM also explained the participants of the real political situation in Cambodia and the election process, which was conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.

According to H.E. Sok An, the Joint-Report on the Conduct of the 2013 Cambodian Elections issued by ERA makes the accusation that the NEC is not neutral in its work, but in fact, the NEC has successfully organized eleven elections, which were highly praised and dubbed a “miracle on the Mekong” by some international election observers.

The Joint-Report charges that broadcast media are unbalanced. However, the report deliberately fails to mention Facebook or YouTube, which have been used by CNRP activists in an apparent attempt to disseminate false and manipulated information to cause sabotage and unrest in the society. Furthermore, the CNRP daily broadcast for many hours through Beehive radio, Mohanokor radio, Women’s Radio, Voice of Democracy, as well as VOA and RFA, and the Phnom Penh Post, the Cambodia Daily, Moneaksekar Khmer and Nokor Thom, which have mostly broadcast and published negative news discrediting the Royal Government and the CPP. During the one-month period of the 2013 General Election campaign, the NEC allocated equal time for all political parties on state radio and television stations.

The Joint-Report acknowledges that Cambodia has sufficient legal instruments to ensure transparency and neutrality of the participation of civil servants and armed forces in the electoral process and political parties, but alleges that these standards are not complied because they still participate in political parties’ activities. Such a claim contradicts the laws and procedures of the NEC as well as other legal instruments concerning human rights. Even Mr. Surya Subedi, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, also confirmed that civil servants have the right to participate in political activities outside their working hours.

The Joint-Report endorses the NDI’s claim that the NEC had removed 1.04 million names from the Voter List, and COMFREL’s allegation of 1.25 million missing names. In October 2013, during the updating of the Voter List throughout the country, only 187,111 people came out to register their names, including Mr. Sam Rainsy. Furthermore, these newly registered names included youths who have just turned 18. If the claims made by NDI, COMFREL and the CNRP, as a pretext to reject the results of the election were true, where are the more than one million people whom the opposition party accuses the NEC of excluding from the Voter List? Why didn’t these two organizations and the CNRP mobilize those people to register their names on the Voter List in October 2013?

The Joint-Report alleges that over 50 percent of citizens showing up to vote found that their names were either not on the list or already used by someone else at one polling station in Wat Sunsom Kosal School, Sangkat Boeung Tum Pun. According to the CEC Chief of Sangkat Boeung Tum Pun, on election day, a well-arranged group of nearly 100 opposition activists, among whom only 4-5 lived in Sangkat Boeung Tum Pun while the rest were outsiders, showed up in order to cause chaos by distorting that their names were missing, no names, and the ink was not indelible; and they repeatedly shouted “Number 7…” [the number of CNRP on the ballot]. This group threatened the election officials by shouting that “after leaving the polling station, you will be killed”.

In fact, at the polling station, there were no such issues as alleged other than a case in which a lady claimed that someone voted under her name. Last October in Sangkat Boeung Tum Pun, only 200 people newly registered on the Voter List. This new registration data shows that the Joint-Report just fabricated figures to mislead, using the term “research” to shield its manipulations.

The Joint-Report alleges that duplicate names allow multiple ballots to be cast, through someone else casting the ballot on behalf of the owner or polling station officials marking the ballot and stuffing it in the ballot box. According to the electoral procedures, a name cannot be removed unless there is a request by the person to whom the name belongs or a third party with genuine evidence. Furthermore, according to LEMNA, every year all political parties have the rights to lodge complaints to include missing names or to remove the duplicate names, but in 2012 why did the opposition party boycott the process?

How could ineligible people vote under the others’ name? How could polling station officials mark the ballot and stuff it in the ballot box? How could these happen when there were six polling station officials, seven party representatives and COMFREL observers, while there were only two CPP representatives at a polling station? The CNRP’s leaders accuse the NEC of committing election fraud. But this accusation of fraud would apply also to their representatives and COMFREL observers who endorsed the process. Are they all thieves?

The Issuance of Blue Cards: As people often lose their identification documents, Blue Cards are issued to safeguard the rights of the citizens who are eligible to vote. The number of Blue Cards issued for the 2013 General Election amounted to 1,860,491 among which 272,447 cards were issued before the election. The Joint-Report draws its own conclusion that the number of Blue Cards issued during the last phase of the election period was close to the number of votes that the CPP gained over the CNRP to mislead the public that the NEC issued 280,000 Blue Cards to the CPP supporters, implying that is why the CPP won the election by a margin of 280,000 votes. To draw a convincing conclusion about the election fraud, the Joint-Report raises a case of Chan Sann which turned out to be entirely untrue.

The Joint-Report states that the number of eligible voters was estimated in 2008 at 9,442,802 compared to the 9,675,453 names on the Voter List. The registration process was done manually, which could not be 100 percent accurate, and figures could be different because – first, citizens have moved from one place to another, many of whom register their names in their new communes, while neglecting to request the deletion of their names from the previous ones; second, most of the local officials either are not able to use computer or do not have access to the Internet, making it difficult for name verification. Further, Commune/Sangkat authorities cannot have one’s name deleted without his/her request or an appeal from anyone supported by genuine documents and evidence.

The Joint-Report raises, as a criticism, that among the 15,075 polling stations where they had observers, 77 polling stations had between 100 and 500 invalid ballots. According to the data circulated by the NEC, throughout the country, the highest number of invalid ballots was 137 in polling station number 0326 in Siem Reap province.

The Joint-Report raises, as a criticism, that in 2012, more than 50 percent of voters’ names in 24 polling stations in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces were deleted. This is misleading because the authors did not conduct serious research while indeed the deletion was due to the fact that the majority of the voters in those polling stations are members of the armed forces, many of whom were deployed to other bases, and thus had their names deleted from the previous communes and registered in the new ones.

The Joint-Report bases on the research by various so-called “independent organizations” and “independent agents”. According to a reliable source, the president of one of such NGOs recently met with the Opposition leaders to advise on how to topple the Royal Government through “people power” or “color revolution”. Are such activities considered independent?

The Royal Government acknowledges that, despite considerable improvements in the electoral processes to date, shortcomings still exist but do not significantly affect the election results. Globally, no electoral system is perfect, and electoral reform does not mean that the existing electoral system is erroneous. Yet to better the electoral system, Samdech Prime Minister is highly committed to undertake further electoral reform and has requested assistance from the Japanese government which has agreed to support such an endeavor.

The last 35 years was a bitter experience in which some countries supported the Democratic Kampuchea regime. Likewise, currently some countries and publics basing their understanding of the electoral process in Cambodia on this Joint-Report have believed and supported the CNRP to accuse the Royal Government, the electoral system in Cambodia, and electoral mechanisms of being unfair and not transparent.

On July 29, 2013, COMFREL announced that the CPP had received 67 seats and the CNRP 56. But after that initial announcement, COMFREL no longer circulated the figure in order to defend the fabricated election results by its ally. On one occasion, Mr. Kem Sokha announced that the CNRP had won 76 seats while at another time that they had won 63, referring to an unnamed NGO and embassy. Why didn’t Mr. Kem Sokha disclose the name of the organization and the embassy to the public?

On Dec. 23, 2013 at the Freedom Park, Mr. Kem Sokha misled the crowd of demonstrators by falsely stating that “…Yesterday, he [Samdech Techo Hun Sen] was about to step down, but now they [Vietnam] have summoned him immediately… I am afraid that they will give him some medicines and when he comes back he will no longer want to step down…”

This was fabricated to dupe those demonstrators who have little knowledge of state affairs, while in fact visits of top leaders to any foreign country are normally planned at least two to three months ahead.

In various forums, the Opposition keeps inciting the overthrow of the Royal Government and demanding for Samdech Prime Minister to step down. Samdech Prime Minister reiterated that he took office in conformity with the Constitution and would step down only inconformity with the Constitution. The CNRP’s problem is their unrealistic promises with the supporters and demonstrators through fabrications and manipulations.

The CNRP’s tactics are:

–       misleading people into believing that the NEC committed election fraud to allow the CPP to win.

–       continuing its inciting and exploitative tactics to maintain support through psychological warfare.

–       attracting the CPP’s supporters to turn to the CNRP.

–       seeking to disseminate its extremist ideology, manipulation and fabrication about election fraud and other issues among the youth to mislead them.

Last September, during the negotiations with the leaders of the CPP, the CNRP’s leaders made a clear statement that they no longer demanded the establishment of a joint committee for investigation of electoral irregularities. They acknowledged the election results of 68 and 55 seats, and accepted Samdech Techo Hun Sen as the Prime Minister. However, they demanded the position of the President of the National Assembly and insisted on having an equal share of commission chairs in the National Assembly.

Mr. Sam Rainsy and Mr. Kem Sokha must be held fully responsible for leading the demonstrators to commit violent acts and for demanding, in contradiction with the Constitution, laws, and the principles of democracy, that the Prime Minister steps down and organizes a new election, resulting in the Jan. 2-3, 2014 incidents. The Royal Government has the duty to safeguard the general interests of the people; while acts of inciting innocent demonstrators to take risks are truly, undeniably irresponsible and inhumane behavior. After the nerve centers of the demonstrations, especially at Democracy Park, were dismantled, the factories resumed their activities and almost all workers went back to work.

Each country has its own history, people and culture. Based on these, Constitution, laws and all kinds of legal instruments are put in place to ensure the smooth running of the government. In addition, each citizen has rights and responsibilities defined by the Constitution. The Rule of law must be respected by everyone. Unfortunately, the CNRP has done otherwise – by creating anarchy and violence, destroying public and private property as well as disturbing peace, security and public order– with the crowds in their countless rallies in Democracy Park and in the streets. One may wonder why some foreign countries and NGOs support this kind of the behavior and dictate changing to a “non-rule of law” way to run this country. Is it because it is not their own country?

Also at the event yesterday, a bilingual (Khmer and English) booklet on the Clarifications by the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers concerning “The Joint-Report on the Conduct of the 2013 Cambodian Elections” by the ERA was launched.

In September last year, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit also released  the White Paper on the 2013 General Election for the 5th Mandate of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which gives an overview on Cambodian Election in 2013, details manoeuvres and tricks played by the CNRP to reject the election results, outlines the resolution of election complaints, and shows comments by the international community on the election and so on.

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