Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Close finish in K'Thom could be headed for recount



Close finish in K'Thom could be headed for recount

Close finish in K'Thom could be headed for recount

It is a matter of

129 votes.

Seat allocation formulas, intimidation and allegations of

ballot fraud aside, a mere 129 votes separates Funcinpec

from one more seat in Kampong Thom.

That slim margin of victory gives the Cambodian People's

Party (CPP) the sixth and last National Assembly seat

allocated for the 90-commune province.

According to experienced election-planners, most

democratic countries would automatically recount such a

tight result. But the National Election Committee (NEC)

has rejected Funcinpec's request for a recount in Kampong

Thom.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Tol Lah said the royalist

party was surprised that the request was rejected. He

added that the request has been resubmitted to the

Constitutional Council.

"In any democratic country, an NEC would do a

recounting without any request from the parties because

the margin is very close - some 120 votes," Tol Lah

said.

Recounts were completed in eight communes around the

country and in every one the NEC found "minor

discrepancies" of a few votes, which it attributed

to "technical errors.

However, the NEC decided to halt its recounting effort

and advised parties to send their complaints to the

Constitutional Council, Samraing Kamsan, spokesman of NEC

Chairman Chheng Phon, said on Aug. 11.

"I would like to explain that technical errors do

exist," Kamsan, told journalists, adding that the

discrepancies "will not affect the allocation of

seats".

But a few votes per commune in 90 communes could make a

big differencein Kampong Thom. At least three other

provinces also have narrow margins of victory for the

last seat.

In Siem Reap, about 200 votes separate the CPP from

taking the province's sixth seat from Funcinpec. The CPP

could also gain a seat in Battambang, where about 600

votes out of a total of 310,954 - about 0.2% - separate

it from Funcinpec's capture of the province's eighth

seat. The Sam Rainsy Party could take the 11th seat from

the CPP in Prey Veng, where about 1,400 votes - about

0.3% of the province's 453,272 votes - separate the two

parties.

Election sources told the Post that the NEC's decision to

stop the recounts produced a rare split among the 11 NEC

members, who usually make decisions by consensus.

"The NEC had a limited amount of time," said

NEC member Do Kong Nguon, one of the majority of NEC

members who voted to stop the recounting. "The NEC's

work is finished and it is now up to the Constitutional

Council."

CPP officials acknowledged that a recount in Siem Reap or

Battambang could gain the ruling party two extra seats,

but they were unsure if any of the CPP's requests to the

NEC were resubmitted to the council.

The SRP called for recounts in 39 Prey Veng communes, but

these complaints apparently were part of the majority of

the SRP's that were rejected by the Constitutional

Council on the grounds that the party did not submit a

proper cover letter.

"It is the legitimate right for all parties to

request a recount," Rainsy said a few days later.

"The difference is so thin. If the CPP wanted a

recount in any similar situation, we would not

object."

A foreign election technician said NEC staff is prepared

for a recount in Kampong Thom and merely waiting for a

decision by the council. A plan exists to have 16 teams

of three counters go through the province's 227,461

votes, working two shifts. The recount is expected to

take five days.

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