Where have ‘all’ the observers gone?

[Published, slightly abridged, in the Cambodia Daily on June 12, 2012, under the heading “Mu Sochua’s Attempts to Explain Away Election Results Fail”. In particular, the Daily deleted the last sentence.]

Mu Sochua’s attempt to explain away the results of the commune elections (June 11) overflows with sweeping accusations but is completely lacking in specifics – not to mention evidence.

She accuses the CPP of “disenfranchisement and impersonation”. Who? did what? when? where? Mu Sochua is not concerned with such details; readers just have to take her word for the big picture – even if they can’t recognise it.

Besides, she assures us, her charges are backed “by all independent observers”. Yes, she did say “all”. According to newspaper reports I have read, there were 14,886 national and international observers registered for the election. And “all” of them witnessed “disenfranchisement and impersonation”? And this unanimity is a story that all of the national and international media missed for an entire week, until Mu Sochua broke it in the Daily?

But perhaps I misunderstand. She did say “all independent observers”. Perhaps some of those national and international observers were not independent. It would be interesting to learn how many observers proved themselves dependent by failing to endorse Mu Sochua’s unsupported generalisations: 5000? 10,000? 14,885?

Equally ridiculous are Mu Sochua’s attempts to turn the results into a setback for the CPP by combining its vote with the votes for the two royalist parties – despite having to admit that the CPP’s vote increased and the SRP’s vote went down (perhaps partly because some of its 2007 voters switched to the HRP). The vote for the divided royalists collapsed, and seems to have shifted partly to the CPP, partly to the SRP-HRP.

As for her claim that the lower voter turnout this year makes the election “unreal”, let me quote from the Economist, not a noted supporter of the CPP:

“… it’s worth noting that only the opposition parties suffered a fall in votes. The most obvious outcome was that the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lost ground in their traditional strongholds, like Phnom Penh …”

Mu Sochua and the SRP might do well to heed the words of Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, as quoted by Voice of America. Ou Virak said it was “a mistake” for the opposition to claim that “the election will be rigged anyway”. “If you go saying that, then your supporters will probably be the ones who are not going to vote. So the drop of the voter turnout is affecting the opposition most.”

But Mu Sochua is not listening: if only the NEC can be “reformed” according to the wishes of “all [unanimity again] independent national and international election observers”, she forecasts, then the SRP and HRP will have a majority in the July 2013 general election, just as it would have had a majority in the commune elections but for all the “disenfranchisement and impersonation”. If Mu Sochua ever tires of politics, she is cut out for a career in a Disney Fantasy Land.

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