‛Disputed’ election?

[Published by the Khmer Times on 30 November 2015.]

Your lead article on Monday refers to “the disputed 2013 national election” in which “Mr. Rainsy and other CNRP leaders said they were cheated out of a win”.

This description, while technically accurate, is so incomplete as to give a false impression.

The facts are simple. On the night of the election and immediately thereafter, the CNRP claimed to have won 63 National Assembly seats, eight more than the National Election Committee count gave it.

The question that immediately arises in the mind of any thinking person presented with such a claim is: “All right, in which provinces did you win a total of eight more seats? What are your figures for the votes in those provinces, and why are they more accurate than the NEC figures?”

The CNRP has consistently avoided answering those obvious questions. Shortly after the election, the Phnom Penh Post reported that CNRP parliamentarian Son Chhay had told its reporters that the eight seats were in the seven provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kandal, Kratie, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Son Chhay also told them that the CNRP would present the full details of its claim to a press conference in no more than “two weeks”.

Almost two and a half years later, the CNRP has presented no details whatsoever, in a press conference or anywhere else – no conflicting vote totals in commune vote counts, no difference on the compilation of votes by province, nothing. It has not even restated Son Chhay’s initial list of provinces in which he thought the CNRP had won additional seats.

The CNRP’s behaviour here is very much like a man who staggers into a police station shouting, “I was robbed”. When the police ask, “What did they take?”, he replies, “I was robbed”. If the police ask, “Did you recognise the robber(s)? How many were there?”, the answer is, “I was robbed”. “Where were you when it happened?” “I was robbed.” In such a hypothetical situation, the police might well conclude that the alleged robbery victim had spent too much on drink and was trying to create a story for his family about why he had lost all his money.

If journalists are going to continue referring to the 2013 election as “disputed”, they really ought to point out how little the “dispute” consists of.