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CPP employs mock-election voter education

CPP employs mock-election voter education

THE CPP is conducting mock elections with villagers and workers in several provinces,

telling people who to vote for and checking the results.

Human rights workers say it is illegal and another part of a campaign of intimidation.

The CPP says it is only teaching its members how to vote correctly.

The mock elections have also been held in at least three garment factories in Phnom

Penh, rights workers say.

Voters have been provided with dummy ballot forms and told to tick the CPP box (number

35). Their ballots are then collected to verify that the instructions were followed.

"A few days ago, the factory managers told us to tick only number 35 on the

ballot," said a worker at the Kong Hong factory. "When we asked why we

needed to do so, the managers said we did not need to know."

Workers said the ballots were given to the factory by CPP officials and that they

were collected after the votes were cast.

Observers say such pseudo-polls make a mockery of free elections. "It cuts to

the heart of the idea of a secret ballot," said one human rights worker. "It

really makes people feel this will happen again [on election day]."

The Free Trade Union Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia "condemn[ed] this act

of voter intimidation" in a July 14 statement, alleging ballots were passed

out at the Kong Hong, Concept and Sin Lan Ho factories in Phnom Penh.

In Pursat, a district chief ordered commune and village chiefs to bring their people

to a local pagoda where they thought they would get gifts, but were instead asked

to "vote" on false ballots with the CPP logo larger than the others, rights

workers said.

When the ballots were collected, those who had ticked a different party were given

the forms back and told to do it again, they say.

The practice has also been documented in Siem Reap, Takeo and Kandal provinces.

It is illegal to cause people to lose confidence in the secrecy of the ballot, according

to Article 76 of the election law.

In addition, the National Election Committee procedures prohibit use of a copy of

the ballot "to explain to supporters or the public for the noting of the place

they have to tick before election day".

The Post acquired a false ballot. Dated June 24, it reproduces the official ballot

faithfully, with the addition of the messages "Tick like this to vote for the

Cambodian People's Party" across the top and "To vote for the CPP is to

vote for peace, national reconciliation, liberation from poverty and national development"

across the bottom.

But the CPP insists it is merely doing what all political parties do - familiarizing

supporters with the ballot and showing them how to vote for their chosen party.

"The CPP is only teaching its members to tick the right box of the CPP, and

how to tick so that the box will be considered valid, and also advising them to be

familiar with the location of the CPP on the ballot," said CPP Secretariat chief

Oum Mean.

"If anyone considers that this act is intimidation, so are the acts of the other

parties who advise people to tick for their party."

Yet human rights workers say that gathering people together - especially non-CPP

members - for such an exercise, and permitting them only one choice by checking the

ballots, crosses the line between propaganda and intimidation.

"It goes beyond voter education, particularly at this late stage," said

one rights worker.

NEC member Tip Jahnvibol said the committee was investigating rumors of mock elections

and confirmed that such a use of ballots would be illegal.

Rights workers believe the mock polls are the final chapter of a campaign to convince

voters that the CPP can keep track of their votes. The party has been criticized

for an aggressive thumb-printing drive to collect oaths of allegiance, and for taking

voters' cards away.

"The thumb-printing, the voter card collection, now this: it's a very logical

last step," said one rights worker. "Every step was to reinforce people's

concerns. The last one tells them, 'If you don't vote for our party, we'll know.'"

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