PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Final but unratified Cambodian election results released Monday reaffirmed the victory by the ruling Cambodian People's Party, angering the opposition, which said they should have been delayed until there was an impartial probe of alleged electoral irregularities.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party reiterated its call for an independent investigation, repeating its threat to hold a massive street demonstration unless its demand was met.
The new figures announced by the National Election Committee are final pending any complaints filed by the parties. They could be ratified by Friday, when the allocation of parliamentary seats in the National Assembly is to be officially confirmed.
If the results are challenged, the official allocation of seats will be announced at a later date, sometime before Sept. 8, said Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC.
The vote totals for the July 28 election announced Monday were nearly the same as earlier provisional figures, which were the basis for the ruling party to claim 68 of the assembly's 123 seats, against 55 for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The total popular vote was 3,235,969 for the ruling CPP and 2,946,176 for the CNRP, with six other parties failing to accrue enough votes to win any assembly seats.
Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha said at a news conference after the announcement that his party continued to reject the results, which represent a major increase from the 29 seats the opposition held in the last assembly.
Party leader Sam Rainsy traveled to the United States last week to attend his daughter's wedding. While there, it's likely he was also measuring what sort of support he can expect from Washington for his party's stand.
The opposition has threatened a mass protest unless there's an independent investigation of the election process. Kem Sokha said the election committee should be held responsible for any consequences resulting from a possible demonstration, charging that it is the committee and the ruling party who are inflaming the political situation.
After Sam Rainsy said last week that the opposition would call a mass street protest if its demand was not met, the government responded by deploying extra troops and armored vehicles in Phnom Penh, the capital.
Kem Sokha appealed to the government to withdraw the military forces, which he said scared the city's residents.
The tough reputation of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for 28 years, has raised fears he might use force to quash any protests, sparking violence in the capital.
The NEC's Tep Nytha said complaints against the results must be filed within 72 hours. He said the election body was not intimidated by the opposition's threat of a demonstration, and was doing its job according to the law.
Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann said Sunday that his party has "never trusted the election body at all because it is clearly known that the NEC is the tool of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, and we don't expect them to act with the purpose of solving our complaint with fairness."
The NEC and the two rival parties have twice agreed in principle to have an independent committee investigate the allegations of irregularities, but the opposition party backed out the first time, insisting it must include as full members representatives of the United Nations and civil society groups.
The second agreement has not yet been implemented, with the partners trying to find a non-governmental organization with a high level of electoral expertise. The opposition is angry that the NEC went ahead and released final figures before an independent committee could do its job.
The main opposition allegation, supported by several nonpartisan civil society organizations, is that voter registration was improperly done, resulting in possibly more than 1 million people being unable to vote because their names were not on local voters lists.