Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Concerns and Recommendations for Electoral Observer and Monitors for July 26 and 27

26 July 2008

Concerns and Recommendations for Electoral Observer and Monitors
for July 26 and 27

The following is an updated version of a document released by the Sam Rainsy Party on 20 July 2008, detailing possible electoral fraud that international observers and monitors must pay attention to throughout election weekend.

1. Voter list manipulation

The ruling party has several methods to manipulate voter lists to their advantage. For example, they can erase the names of legitimate voters, especially non-CPP supporters. Alternatively, they can keep (or add) "ghost voters" on the list: deceased people, voters that were registered twice, and voters that have moved away permanently. The CPP can then use these ghost voters to inflate their number of votes in the following way:

They will identify people who are not eligible to vote (such as under-aged people, non-registered citizens and foreigners living in Cambodia) or people who are not interested in voting (such as migrant workers not registered as voters) and offer them money in exchange for a CPP vote. They will take these people to specific venues, where they will distribute 1018 documents (*) with the ghost voter's identity but the replacement voter's real photo. With this fake identity, they will be able to vote for the CPP.

Besides, they will wait until minutes before the end of voting hours to identify registered voters who did not show upat the polling station. They will then issue last-minute fraudulent 1018 forms with the identity of the absent registered voters to people who will vote for them.

Finally, the CPP can steal the votes of legitimate voters whom they suspect will not vote for them in the following way: they will forge 1018 documents with the identity of non-CPP supporters, and then bribe people (illegitimate voters) to vote for the CPP using this forged document. These fraudulent voters will go to the polling station as early as possible, before the real voter can show up. When the real voter does show up, they are turned down, as their name has already been used to vote.

Recommendations for Observers:

1) The 1018 form must be stamped in order to be issued. The stamp is detained by the commune clerk, assistant to the commune chief, both of which are affiliated with the CPP. Most ghost voter 1018 forms are distributed on or just before voting day, although it is illegal to issue them on Election Day. The CPP will have pre-dated these forms but they cannot pre-stamp them, as the stamp must be on the photo of the person who will vote using the ghost voter identity. Therefore, it is crucial for the stamp to be safeguarded on Election Day. The SRP has already proposed that the stamp be kept in a sealed and signed envelope, in such a way that its presence would be visible by all. We recommend that monitors support this proposal, push for its implementation, and monitor the whereabouts of the stamp on Election Day.

2) The CPP will hold gatherings to distribute the 1018 forms. The venues for the distribution will most likely be village chiefs' houses, commune chiefs' houses, or the local CPP headquarters. We recommend that monitors send delegates to these locations on Election Day and report any suspicious activity, such as unusual gathering of people. The mere presence of an international observer may be a sufficient deterrent to this practice. For the monitors staying at the polling stations, look out for ghost voters especially between the hours of 11:30-13.00 (lunchtime), and 14:30-15:00 (minutes before the closing of the polling station at 15:00). The SRP asks that a list of identified ghost voters be posted in every polling station and that voters using these fake identities be immediately identified and forbidden to vote. These lists are available and monitors should demand that they are used to eliminate voter fraud.

3) Observers must pay close attention to voters being turned down under the pretext that they have already voted. We recommend that you ask local agents and your local collaborators for more details on any voter being turned away and that you be aware of this CPP vote-stealing strategy.

2. Vote Buying

a. The Night of Barking Dogs

In previous elections, the night before Election Day has been referred to as the Night of Barking Dogs, because of the systematic door-to-door visits of CPP officials and dogs' reactions to these unannounced house calls. Tonight, they will distribute money and sarongs in exchange for votes. Observers must rely on local informants and collaborators for reports on such vote buying.

Recommendations for Observers: the sarongs and money allocated for this vote buying are stored in specific places: local CPP Headquarters, village chiefs' houses and commune chiefs' houses. Local observers and party agents will wait outside these warehouses throughout the night and follow CPP officials that come out with bribes in order to deter any illegal activity. We recommend that you take note of their reports.

b. Buying Opposition Party Agents

CPP party agents will bribe and intimidate other parties' agents (especially those of SRP) in order to ensure their silence in the face of vote-buying and ballot counting manipulation.

Recommendations for Observers: listen to party agents and be aware of these illegal practices.

c. Ten-House Groups

Early on the morning of Election Day, in each village the CPP will summon, in specific places, their supporters who are organized in communist-type cells of ten households each, which are under the supervision of the village chief. The official purpose of these ten-house groups is to facilitate voter transport to polling stations. However, during the transportation, CPP officials will pressure the voters and tell them how and who to vote for while giving them additional bribes, or making promises of additional bribes. Such coercion after the end of the official campaigning period, as well as the outright illegality of vote-buying, is a breach of electoral law. This is particularly serious as it is last-minute psychological pressure before these voters cast their ballots.

Recommendations for Observers: listen to local informants, including opposition party agents who may have infiltrated these groups, as they may serve as witnesses of this breach of electoral law. In addition, observers should follow the village chief wherever he goes.

3. Ballot Counting Process

a. Vote Announcements

The ballot number of CPP is four (4) whereas that of the SRP is nine (9). In Khmer these two numbers sound similar. Four is boun and nine is pram boun, often pronounced as p'boun.. Therefore, when spoken fast, the number nine can easily be confused as a four. As the ballot counting process is done through verbal announcement of ballot numbers, the NEC has given official instructions ordering that during the ballot counting process the party names of the CPP and SRP ballots have to be announced before the number. However, usually these types of instructions are given by the top levels of government to serve only as a façade and are not implemented at the local levels.

Recommendations for Observers: Observers must ensure that for the CPP and SRP parties, the announcers state the party name before the ballot number.

b. Null and Void Ballots

According to electoral law, any mark(s) within a single party's segment of the ballot (even outside the designated blank square) constitutes a valid ballot. However, if a mark is found in two different parties' segments, the ballot is rendered null. Throughout the voting process, CPP agents will contaminate ballots. At the voting stage they may give ballots that are pre-marked on the CPP segment (or a smaller party's segment) to people they suspect are not CPP supporters. At the ballot counting stage, CPP agents may discreetly add a second mark to another party's segment on SRP ballots, and if caught, claim this action was inadvertent. These two tactics are used to nullify votes for the SRP. If this is witnessed, SRP party agents will file complaints.

Recommendations for Observers: Ask to look at the ballots when there is an unusually large number of complaints. Ensure that the intention of the ballot be respected, because in some cases there is a clear tick or mark for a single party combined with a small mark in another party segment that was most likely not intended by the voter. Observers must also ensure that party agents' complaints are treated fairly and not systematically rejected by the NEC as was the case in previous elections.

c. 1104 Forms

1104 forms are minutes of vote counting for each polling station. These 1104 forms are essential for parallel counting. At the end of ballot counting, the 1104 forms reveal the breakdown of electoral results by polling station and thus serve as an accurate computation of the national results. Each party agent is entitled to a copy of the 1104 form from their polling station. In previous elections NEC officials invented pretexts to retain 1104 forms overnight, allowing them to manipulate the results of the votes without even touching the ballots (cheating at the reporting level). Opposition party agents can file complaints if they do not receive a 1104 form immediately after the counting. In the case of a legitimate complaint, the polling stations' ballot boxes must be reopened and the votes recounted. In 2003, virtually no recounting was allowed despite over 1,000 filed complaints. It is crucial that observers remain present during the final phase of the electoral process, even after the results are announced, to oversee the resolution of complaints.

Recommendations for Observers: Make sure that all party agents receive 1104 forms immediately after ballot counting is over. Secondly, make sure that all complaints are treated fairly.

4. Clean Finger Operation

In past elections, the CPP paid voters to vote for them but now having realized that people could accept their money and still vote for the party of their choice, they have resorted to a new strategy: paying people to abstain from voting if they are not known CPP supporters. When voters cast their ballot, their finger is dipped in ink that remains on their skin for several days, therefore a clean finger after the elections is evidence that a person has abstained from voting. The CPP will bribe voters before the election, and give an additional bribe after the election in exchange for a clean finger.

Recommendations for Observers:

We recommend that international monitors look out for this phenomenon by asking your local informants, translators, and voters for occurrences of the clean finger operation. It is important to be aware of this widespread practice and actively search for evidence, as it will not be visible in a polling station or on Election Day.

Finally, we recommend that monitors look out for CPP agents closing windows and doors of polling stations, faking electricity cuts, and detonating small explosives to create bomb scares. These are all tactics to limit transparency, and intimidate non-CPP voters to prevent them from casting their ballots. CPP voters, escorted by CPP agents, generally come at the early hours and will have already cast their votes.

SRP Members of Parliament

Labels: , , ,

Powered by Blogger

 Home   |   About Us   |   Submit URL or Your Company Address First Launched: 08/15/95 - Copyright © 2010 Cambodian Information Center. All rights reserved.