Allegations of intimidation, ghost voting and electoral-roll sabotage marred yesterday’s commune election as citizens flocked to schools, pagodas and tent-filled streets to cast their vote.
It wasn’t yet 9am when SRP legislator Son Chhay, preparing to vote at the capital’s Neakavoan Pagoda, claimed voters across Phnom Penh had arrived at polling stations to find their names missing from the electoral roll.
“I think their names have been deleted,” he said. “At each station, you’re talking about 40 or 50 people.
“[Some] have just walked back [home] – they just don’t bother. It is a concern that a lot of people cannot display their political decision.”
The SRP was also looking into allegations of vote-buying and intimidation in the capital, Son Chhay said.
Allegations of crookedness, however, weren’t confined to Phnom Penh.
In Battambang town, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua and 25-year-old O’Char commune candidate Sin Chan Pov Rozeth accused Cambodian People’s Party officials of intimidation, accepting improper identification documents and planning to use ghost voters.
“CPP party agents are checking to see that all their voters have voted,” she said, adding she had seen a party operative at the polling station tallying CPP votes. “If some don’t [vote], they bring in ghost voters.”
According to Sin Chan Pov Rozeth, the CPP had pushed back hard as she attempted to unseat long-time CPP incumbent Kem Chhorng.
She accused CPP commune council member Meun Vibol of intimidating residents on the eve of the election by patrolling with police chief In Ratha while wearing military fatigues and carrying an AK-47.
“A commune council member doesn’t wear a uniform like that,” she said. “It looks threatening to the people.”
Both In Ratha and Meun Vibol denied the incident.
“If the SRP found me doing that, then they have to show proof,” Meun Vibol said.
Mu Sochua posted a photograph on her website yesterday that shows a man she claims is Meun Vibol in fatigues.
Sok Khen, Battambang secretary for the election-monitoring group Comfrel, received reports of the secretary of a polling station in Tuol Ta Ek district failing to distribute instructional leaflets, then throwing out votes on the grounds the thumbprints were unclear.
She added that if Meun Vibol had indeed been wearing military garb on election eve as described, it would be a violation of campaign laws.
Chhorm Anupheap, a National Election Committee monitor at the O’Char polling station, said the only complaints he had received were about the long queue leading to the polls.
Comfrel, which observed 800 polling stations, said some “minor” irregularities had surfaced – involving both the CPP and the SRP, which had violated election rules by campaigning in a number of provinces on Saturday, board member Thun Saray said.
“They spoke on loudspeakers, gave out money and gifts and displayed party banners,” he said.
Other “irregularities” included political officials loitering near voting centres, a lack of “well-trained” voting officials and observers being denied access to polling places.
Thun Saray also said the ink used to identify a person who had voted was removable.
“We are worried about this, because we tested the ink and saw that it could be removed,” he said.
NEC chairman Im Suosdey said some voters were unaware of what identification they had needed to show, while others had turned up too late to vote.
Tep Nytha, secretariat-general of NEC, and government officials could not be reached to respond to the SRP’s claims.
Reporting by Stuart White, Kim Yuthana, Phak Seangly, Shane Worrell, Kristin Lynch, Vong Sokheng and Khouth Sophak Chakrya in Battambang and Phnom Penh