Preliminary results in Cambodia’s third commune elections yesterday point to another overwhelming victory for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
According to preliminary polls for 14 provinces released by the party itself last night, the CPP had won control in every commune in nine of the provinces, including in Phnom Penh and had only lost one commune in three others.
The National Election Committee was broadcasting results one commune at a time throughout the night on state television.
At a press conference early yesterday evening, NEC president Im Suosdey said there had been information delays in gathering the results.
“We wait for the result from the provinces; we cannot release the result as fast as we wanted, it needs to take some time,” he said.
At the time of printing, results for Kampong Thom and Kampot showed CPP domination.
Pailin province, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold, proved itself a CPP stronghold as well with the ruling party taking 73 per cent of the vote, up from 59 per cent of the vote in 2007, the director of the provincial information office there told the Post.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann last night said preliminary results indicated there had been some improvement for his party, which won 28 commune chief seats in 2007.
With counting still ongoing, the SRP claimed it had already won 22 commune chief seats in six provinces.
However, Yim Sovann was quick to say the party did not accept the results.
“We reject the results and we want a re-election. There have been too many irregularities,” Yim Sovann said, adding that the opposition party had evidence of voter names being deliberately deleted off lists, of commune chiefs distributing fake identification to minors and rampant vote-buying.
Despite claiming at least 21 commune chief seats, Human Rights Party spokesman Pol Ham was a a bit deflated about his party’s performance in its first commune election.
“We aren’t really happy with the result, we had expected more than that,” he said. “A lot of our supporters are the poor who have difficult coming in to vote,” Pol Ham said. He said he believed the party had also been thwarted by CPP vote-buying and negative opposition party propaganda calling the HRP a puppet of the CPP.
Funcinpec spokesman Tom Sambol said the party was ready to officially declare victory in only one seat in Banteay Meanchey, but was awaiting more results.
NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said he had no information about election results.
Earlier in the day, SRP MP Son Chhay told the Post the opposition party was hoping to boost the number of commune council chiefs from 28 to 150 with yesterday’s vote.
He highlighted the near doubling of success for the party between the 2002 and 2007 elections, when they secured 23 per cent of the vote.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who cast his vote yesterday morning in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Basaac commune, said the announcement of the re-integration of the royalist parties had buoyed support for his party.
He emphasised that his eponymous Norodom Ranariddh Party had implemented a central policy aimed at working closely with the ruling CPP.
“Funcinpec was . . . a very long partner working with the Cambodian People’s Party. And I have also co-operated well and worked with Samdech Hun Sen to resolve problems in our country,” he said.
The prince also called on the NEC, provincial and commune election committees to perform their duties well, as they had a reputation for not being independent.
NEC’s Im Suosdey said about 60 per cent of the roughly 9.2 million registered voters had cast their vote in choosing councils to administer Cambodia’s 1,633 communes and urban sub-districts, known as sangkats.
But the election monitoring group Comfrel reported that voting rates at observed sites had decreased from 71 per cent in 2007 to 61 per cent this year.
“A possible reason for the decrease is because the people get tired of voting and not seeing any change,” board member Thun Saray said.
Post reporters on the ground in Kampong Cham and Prey Veng reported particularly low turnout in the communes visited in those provinces.
In Prey Veng, some polling officials estimated there was only a 50 per cent turnout yesterday, down from more than 70 per cent in previous elections.
In Kampong Cham, early unofficial head counts from Comfrel stood at an average 63 per cent voter turnout, down roughly 20 per cent on 2007, Comfrel monitor Nhek Sophy said.
He said reasons for the significant decrease in turnout include an uninterested populace, voters lacking proper documents at polling stations and the expense of travelling to voting sites.
Neang Sovath, an Adhoc co-ordinator, said that while the elections were more peaceful than those in 2007, some villagers were not interested in voting because they could not see what change candidates will bring.
Predictions of victory for the CPP came early and often in Kampong Cham town, where the provincial governor, Hun Neng, is Prime Minister Hun Sen’s older brother and where National Assembly president Heng Samrin goes to vote.
“I can say the CPP will win, but I don’t know by how much we will win,” Heng Samrin told the Post.
According to preliminary CPP polls last night, the long-standing ruling party had won 161 out of a total 173 communes in the province.
In Kandal, Hun Sen was already in a celebratory mood as he cast his vote near his residence in Takhmao district.
All smiles as he entered the polling station, he held his folded voting slip to his lips and kissed it before slipping it into the ballot box.
In response to reporters’ shouted questions, he jokingly said the law forbade him from commenting. “I am sorry, in accordance with the laws [on elections], they [NEC] do not allow me to make a statement in the surroundings of the polling station,” he said to laughter.
Kandal province, long a CPP stronghold, provided good reason for the prime minister’s happy mood, if the reactions of voters were anything to go by.
Chheang Ratanak, 59, who cast his ballot at the same polling station as Hun Sen, declined to say which party he supported but said he believed the CPP would win.
“I speculate that the CPP is going to win this election, because my CPP commune chief has built road and drainage infrastructure according to the promise,” he said.
Reporting by Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Kim Yuthana, Meas Sokchea, Mom Kunthear, Vong Sokheng, Bridget Di Certo, Joseph Freeman, Derek Stout, Stuart White and Cassandra Yeap in Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kandal, Phnom Penh and Prey Veng