Ruling Communists Think Twice about Handing over Power CAMBODIAN ELECTION PROTEST

Article excerpt

STUNG by results showing heavy support at the polls for the royalist opposition, Cambodia's ruling party has appealed for new elections in areas where it claimed fraud had occurred and threatened to refuse to recognize the outcome of the balloting.

"We cannot recognize the result of the election if it is not free and fair," Sok An, deputy chief of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), said at a news conference on June 1.

UN spokesman Eric Falt said that Yasushi Akashi, the United Nations special representative to Cambodia, and other top officials with the UN force discussed the CPP's complaints with party leaders. Mr. Akashi told the party leaders they would have to present evidence to back up their claims of vote fraud before UN officials could consider their protest, Mr. Falt said.

Mr. Sok refused to give specifics of the party's complaints but said they included alleged inconsistencies with ballot records and counting, concerns that seals on some boxes were broken, and a party contention that representatives of the royalist opposition United National Front for an Independent, Peaceful, Neutral, and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC) had improperly been allowed to enter a compound where ballots were stored.

He refused to say if the party had any evidence of actual tampering with the ballots. The technical discrepancies would not have significant impact on the overall election results.

The allegations raised the first serious doubt about the legitimacy of the elections that drew 89 percent of registered voters to the polls and were quickly declared free and fair by top UN officials, clearing the way for recognition by individual nations.

The elections - the country's first multiparty ballot in 21 years - were part of a $2 billion UN plan to bring peace and democracy to Cambodia after two decades of war and turmoil.

UN officials rejected the CPP's demand for new elections in the capital of Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kompong Chhnang, Prey Veng, and Battambang. …