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Flooding raises fears of polling problems

Villagers wade through flood waters in Kampot province in 2010. Many areas in Cambodia are prone to flooding every year.
Villagers wade through flood waters in Kampot province in 2010. Many areas in Cambodia are prone to flooding every year. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Flooding raises fears of polling problems

A weather forecast predicting heavy rain in the next five days is causing some trepidation among election monitors, who fear flooding might keep some voters from the polls.

Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor issued a warning Monday that a low-pressure system hitting the Mekong Delta region could cause downpours, leading to overflowing of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers and the Tonle Sap lake.

Floods would most disenfranchise poor voters who support opposition parties, said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party would likely be able to send transportation to pick up party loyalists, while opposition supporters may remain stuck in the mud, he said.

“I think it will be worst for [opposition supporters] living in poor communities who are not in a position to seek their own transportation to polling stations in the case of flooding,” Virak said. “But it will benefit CPP.”

In light of the forecast, election observers and some voters have been preparing raincoats, rafts and boats, Virak said.

Hang Puthea, head of election monitor Nicfec, said he was worried risks associated with travelling to polling stations in severe weather could keep voters from casting ballots, diminishing the legitimacy of the results.

Storms could “lower the number of voters, and lead to some parties doubting the election results in some polling stations,” Puthea said. “However, we hope that each polling station will be located on higher ground for safety.”

The National Election Committee has already taken certain precautions, selecting the locations of their 19,009 polling stations as places not likely to flood, NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha said.

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