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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

EU monitor says Cambodian election biased in favor of ruling party

EU Monitor Says Cambodian Election Biased in Favor of Ruling Party

2008-07-29 (PR-Inside)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - The European Union on Tuesday said last weekend's national elections in Cambodia failed to meet international standards because of biases in favor of the country's ruling party.

The criticism came the day after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party claimed it had won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The results were expected to usher in a new term for the premier who has ruled the country for 23 years.

Martin Callanan, the head of an EU election monitoring team, said all aspects of organizing Sunday's polls were «dominated by the Cambodian People's Party,» which allow «accusations of lack of impartiality to be made,» he said.

Callanan said there was bias during the election campaigns, citing «a widespread use of state resources,» including the use of government-registered vehicles by ruling party officials.
He also said the party dominated the media coverage «which was not consistent with international standard on free and equal access to the media.

But Callanan declined to characterize the election as unfair despite allegations of widespread vote rigging from smaller parties, including the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party. They have called on the international community to reject the results.

Tep Nitha, the election committee's secretary-general, declined to comment on the issue.
in a joint statement Monday, four small parties including Sam Rainsy, said Hun Sen's party won through «illegal and fraudulent practices.» They cited the National Election Committee's alleged removal of tens of thousands of legitimate voters from electoral lists to prevent them from casting ballots for other parties.

They also accused the electoral body of acting as «a tool for the CPP to organize a sham election and present a facade of democracy.

Khieu Kanharith, the spokesman of the ruling party, dismissed the allegations of fraud.
Callanan said his team will release its final findings on the election in October.

The CPP has claimed a landslide victory with up to 91 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, which is the lower house of Parliament. Official results are expected in a few days.

Hun Sen has been at the center of Cambodian politics since 1985, when he became the world's youngest prime minister at age 33. He has held or shared the top job ever since, bullying and outfoxing his opponents to stay in power.

Sunday's voting was the fourth parliamentary election since the United Nations brokered a peace deal for the country in 1991, a process meant to end decades of civil unrest that included the 1975-79 genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge.

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