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NEC: Nearly 600,000 invalid votes cast in polls

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Officials count the ballots on Sunday. Hong Menea

NEC: Nearly 600,000 invalid votes cast in polls

The National Election Committee (NEC) said on Monday that there were nearly 600,000 invalid ballots cast in Sunday’s national elections, adding that the issue was not unusual in a democracy.

According to the preliminary results, voter turnout was 6,946,164, or 82.17 percent, of which 596,775 were invalid – around nine per cent.

“Every country has valid and invalid ballots. It’s just that in Cambodia there have been more invalid votes than in previous elections. It may reflect the will of the voters, but whatever it is, we cannot interpret because the vote is confidential,” said NEC deputy secretary-general Som Sorida.

In the 2013 national elections, there were a total of 108,085 invalid ballots or 1.6 per cent of the total votes cast.

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Nicfec), said the number of invalid ballots in the Kingdom’s elections was high compared to other countries.

“Around nine per cent of voters destroyed their ballots, meaning they were dissatisfied. There was no party they liked,” he said.

Sok Touch, president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), echoed the NEC’s position.

“In a democracy, people have the right to cast invalid ballots. There are those who are satisfied and dissatisfied . . . Voter turnout was 82 percent, but the number of invalid ballots was only nine percent, so it’s not a majority,” he said.

Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said voters’ education was to blame.

“The level of people’s knowledge is not the same, that’s why some ballots were valid and some were not. They were isolated cases that have happened before,” he said, reiterating that the invalid ballots did not reflect the voters’ will.

“Wrong ticking was not a result of voters’ dissatisfaction. It was because they did not understand how to tick. We cannot read people’s minds. When people don’t understand, they don’t know how to tick."

“It had nothing to do with people’s sympathy for the former opposition party that has died . . . That’s why voter turnout was high. They did not even care about their ‘Clean Finger’ [campaign],” Eysan said.

Cheam Channy, the former opposition lawmaker with the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said: “People went to vote because they were forced to and they cast invalid ballots. It doesn’t reflect success,” he said.

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