Preliminary returns from Sunday’s commune elections appear to show a tighter popular vote than the breakdown of communes won would seem to suggest, with the CNRP raking in an estimated 45 percent of votes to the CPP’s 48 percent, according to a coalition of NGOs.
Though the figures were based only on a sample of polling stations, the Situation Room an election monitoring group made up of watchdogs and human rights organisations – said in a statement that it believes the projections “are 95 percent accurate”.
The monitors yesterday also announced that they hadn’t found any major issues with the election, tentatively labelling the voting process mostly free and fair, though some observers warned that the smooth process on election day did not reflect the repressive political environment that preceded it.
“Up to now, we haven’t seen any formal complaints regarding the ballot counting, but we have observed some small irregularities,” the press release stated, noting specific instances of monitors being banned from election stations and other issues.
“We cannot judge yet whether it is free and fair until after we have an analysis after the final result,” said Yong Kim Eng, of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace.
Official results will be available no later than June 24.Transparency International Cambodia Director Preap Kol yesterday presented the group’s preliminary findings, gathered from 411 polling stations across all provinces and Phnom Penh.
“There were minor very minor incidents. They were not systematic; they were isolated incidents, and they did not affect the outcome of the election,” Kol said during the presentation.
Kol did say that while the day of the election was mostly free of intimidation, the weeks preceding it created a hostile atmosphere that may leave a stain on the election’s legacy.
“Pressure on CSOs [civil society organisations] and the amendment to the Law on Political Parties, and certain rhetoric, may have had a negative impact on free, fair and just elections,” Kol said, referring to a February change allowing for the disbanding of parties if their leaders have been convicted of a crime.
Naly Pilorge, deputy director of advocacy at Licadho, had stronger words to criticise the proceedings.
“We cannot use ‘free and fair’ to describe any of Cambodia’s elections, as they are riddled with vote buying, threats, attacks and imprisonment of opposition party members . . . [and] government institutions including the military who support and assist the ruling party,” she said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan, however, dismissed the criticism, saying that this election proves Cambodia has a thriving, democratic multiparty political system that respects the will of the people.
Siphan also said he was pleased that the CNRP accepted the results of this year’s election, and added that he didn’t expect any protests.
“This election encourages Cambodians that we don’t hold elections to divide ourselves, but to learn from the people,” he said.
The United States Embassy also congratulated the smooth voting yesterday, posting on Facebook that the election was “an important milestone in Cambodia’s continued democratic development”.
Analyst Meas Ny said the smooth process in this election meant that the results this time around could not be refuted as they were in the controversial 2012 and 2013 elections.
“I think that this time the CNRP cannot reject the results of this election,” Ny said.
Despite the somewhat disappointing results, Ny said the CNRP’s almost 500 seats was a good base from which to continue to grow the party.
“When you look at how CNRP emerged in 2013, it was a small tree that could grow quite far . . . CNRP now also has the roots. The future depends on how they take care of the tree,” Ny said.
Nonetheless, he added, referring to the potential for attacks from the government, even a tree must be wary of “lightning”.