Cambodia to set up independent poll investigation

The two rival parties claiming victory in Cambodia`s General Election reached an agreement with the state NEC to investigate polling irregularities.

Updated: Aug 03, 2013, 19:12 PM IST

Phnom Penh: The two rival parties claiming victory in Cambodia`s General Election reached an agreement on Saturday with the state National Election Committee (NEC) to investigate polling irregularities.

In a move that could pave the way to ending the country`s political deadlock, NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha announced an agreement in principle to form an independent investigative body after meeting with senior members of the ruling Cambodian People`s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

The ruling party contends that provisional results show it won 68 parliamentary seats to the opposition`s 55 in the July 28 election, while the opposition claims there was widespread cheating and that it won a 63-seat majority.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power for 28 years, has made clear that he believes the final results, due in mid-August, will favour him and he will have another term in office.

There had been speculation that opposition lawmakers might try to block the formation of a new government by failing to take their seats in the 123-seat National Assembly and denying the body a quorum, which some interpret to mean the presence of at least 120 members.

However, Hun Sen said yesterday that the Constitution allows the Assembly to open and appoint a new government without the opposition`s participation. He said the failure of opposition lawmakers to take their seats could result in their forfeiting them to the ruling party.

"There will be no deadlock for the new National Assembly and the forming of new government. I will be the Prime Minister for the fifth five-year term of the government," Hun Sen told villagers in Kandal province.

While the establishment of the investigative body is unlikely to have any substantive effect, it could serve as a way for the two parties to reach a face-saving accord and avoid possible chaos if Hun Sen takes office without the opposition`s acquiescence.

If the body agrees that there were flaws in the election process, it could initiate reforms for which the opposition could take credit, keeping its promise of fighting a long-haul struggle for democracy.

Hun Sen, for his part, could stake a claim of being willing to compromise, giving the appearance of being reasonable rather than an intransigent autocrat.

The opposition has charged that more than 1 million people may have been unable to vote in the election because their names were not put on voting rolls despite having registered. There are also charges of people being registered despite being ineligible.