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CPP wins commune polls as opposition gains steam

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International election observers hold a conference on the June 5 commune council elections in the capital on June 6. Hong Menea

CPP wins commune polls as opposition gains steam

International observers who were monitoring the June 5 commune council elections lauded the process, saying it was free, fair and non-violent, with voter turnout standing at 80.19 per cent, or over 7.38 million eligible voters, according to updated figures from the National Election Committee (NEC).

Meanwhile, preliminary results show that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is projected to win almost the entirety of the commune chief positions in the 1,652 communes nationwide, although the Candlelight Party – the second largest with candidates fielded across the country – is expected to win in at least four communes – three in Kampong Thom and one in Kampong Cham.

Speaking at a June 6 press conference regarding the results of their observation, a group of international monitors led by Hubert Moise Hai Haddad congratulated the Kingdom on the “successful election”.

“I will conclude by certifying that this election was conducted in a completely fair manner and according to international rules. I congratulate all those who have enabled the success of this election and offer a double congratulations, especially after the hard times that the country has gone through,” he said.

He said that his first impression of Cambodia was that the country seems to have real political stability as evidenced by its management of the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed the early return of tourism and the opening of the borders as well as the possibility for Cambodians living all over the world to return to the country and vote.

He said that what he witnessed while monitoring the elections was no different from what went on in France. He noted that it seemed like it was allowed for almost all opinions to be expressed publicly and the voter list was quite well-organised with no possibility of errors.

“I attended the counting at two polling stations and was able to see that everything was done with rigor and seriousness.

“I would like to – on my behalf and on behalf of my entire team – congratulate the organisers. Our guides and interlocutors from the National Election Committee allowed us to go wherever we wanted and without any restrictions,” he said.

According to the NEC, there were 88,050 agents from all 17 political parties and 74,885 local observers participating in the process.

Additionally, there were 110 international monitors from 20 different groups observing the elections, which were covered by 776 local journalists and 39 international news reporters, it said.

Another group of international monitors – the Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI) – said at the press conference that they had followed the election preparations since before the opening hours to ensure that the election was held in-line with international commitments.

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NEC officials begin counting the commune council elections ballots at Bun Rany Hun Sen High School in Koh Dach commune of Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar on June 5. Hong Menea

They said that the voter turnout was relatively good and so was the professionalism and integrity of the NEC staff. To gain the most insight into the election process, their delegation carried out its observation activities at six polling stations in Phnom Penh and in Kandal province’s Mok Kampoul district.

“The overall election environment was characterized as calm, peaceful and non-violent. The delegation did not observe any complaints that might have adversely affected the process or the results of the 2022 election,” the delegation said.“The success of the 2022 election is yet another significant step in promoting the Kingdom’s ongoing reform to realize people’s aspiration for peace, democracy and development.”

Some of the 17 participating political parties are at odds over the general outcome of the election. The Candlelight Party said in a press statement on June 6 that the election “did not reflect the will of the people” and that it was not free as their candidates had been threatened and intimidated starting prior to the election.

They also noted that the vote counting was conducted behind closed doors after the voting period was finished.

NEC spokesman Som Sorida refuted the claim made by the Candlelight Party. He said the statement did not reflect what actually occurred the day of the election and that things had gone smoothly and without violence or threats.

Regarding the closed-door vote counting, Sorida said that the general public has no right to get into the election station or the vote count stations. These provisions are stated in the law on the commune council election.

“In article 30, it is stated that it is only permitted to get into the vote counting station and its vicinity if you are vote counting officials designated by NEC, political party’s candidates and observers holding cards issued by the NEC,” he said. “In case any incident occurs in the vote counting station, security guards and emergency rescuers can enter the station with the permission from an NEC official,” he said.

The Candlelight Party’s beliefs about the integrity of the election weren’t shared by all of the other parties. The Cambodian Youth Party said in a press statement that the election was smooth, secure, orderly, free, fair and just – without any threats.

Likewise, the Khmer National United Party (KNUP) also said the election was an example of “multi-party democracy” in action and that it took place without “coercion”. They also said that the vote counting was carried out in an “acceptable way”.

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, in his capacity as the vice-president of the CPP and the chairmen of the CPP working group for Battambang, thanked his party’s candidates and local members for winning the support of the people to continue leading the communes in the fifth mandate.

“This victory could not plausibly be achieved without the participation of the leaders and members of the party, who devoted their time and resources to supporting the CPP – the party that always stands with the people and shares their pains and joys together,” Sar Kheng said, adding that the election was calm, peaceful and non-violent.

“This also shows Cambodians and the international community the maturity, ownership and commitment of the CPP in implementing the principles of multi-party democracy as stated in the constitution,” he said.

Yang Saing Komar, chairman of the board of directors of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) said that his party gained more votes from the people and won some seats in three communes, an improvement compared to previous elections.

“We gained seats in some new communes, but our goal was to get a seat as a commune chief in order to govern it as a model for our five principles has not yet been achieved,” he said, adding that his party will move forward with dignity and will continue to compete in elections to promote political freedoms, social justice and green development.

According to the preliminary election results prepared by the NEC and obtained by The Post, the CPP won almost every commune across the country with a total of over 5.37 million votes or 74.32 per cent of the entire voter turnout.

Candlelight Party was the runner-up, winning 1.61 million votes or 22.26 per cent of the turnout. FUNCINPEC ran third with over 90,000 votes or 1.27 per cent of the day’s turnout.

NEC said a total of 146,205 ballots – or roughly two per cent – were invalidated. NEC secretary general Tep Nytha said on June 5 that it was within the normal range and that between one and three per cent of ballots are invalidated due to various factors in any given election.

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