Although the ruling Cambodian People’s Party is touting a landslide win in Sunday’s commune elections, support for it and junior partners Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party actually slipped as a percentage of the popular vote – dropping to 68 per cent this year from 74 per cent in 2007.
Support for opposition parties, meanwhile, jumped to 31 per cent in the third mandate from 25 per cent in 2007, according to leaked results from CPP headquarters.
The results, assembled by CPP commune chiefs and councillors, show the CPP sweeping to victory with roughly 62 per cent of the popular vote.
The SRP picked up 20.8 per cent, while royalist parties Funcinpec and NRP picked up 3.9 and 2.9 per cent, respectively.
Newcomer HRP earned 9.8 per cent of the popular vote, performing particularly well in Prey Veng, where it secured 23 per cent of the vote, and Kampong Cham, with 17 per cent.
The SRP performed well in Phnom Penh and Kampong Thom, picking up 29 and 27 per cent of the vote.
According to the results, the CPP performed strongly in the coastal regions of Kep, Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong, with negligible wins for any other parties in those provinces.
CPP spokesman Cheam Yeap said the initial polls by the CPP usually matched the final results announced by the NEC, as the political party used the same calculations as the electoral body.
“We have a mass winning election in which we [CPP] won 1,592 of the total 1,633 communes nationwide,” Cheam Yeap said.
The National Election Committee has said it will not announce official results until June 24, and results may even be delayed beyond that, as provincial election committees are responsible for resolving all election complaints before the numbers become valid.
“The commune election committees will take three days for counting the votes and then will send to the Provincial Election Committee, which will need five days to examine the results and must resolve all complaints before sending to the NEC,” Tep Nyth said.
“The political party that wins the majority of seats will then appoint the chief of the commune/sangkat, and the political party winning the next highest votes will appoint the first or second commune chief, depending on numbers,” he added.
The Cambodian formula, colloquially known as the “the highest-average formula”, means the top vote-getters gain a number of seats greater than their percentage of the vote, while “losers” receive considerably fewer seats than their vote tally might suggest.
It’s a formula observers have said leaves little room for political participation by smaller parties.
“It is a technical formula that caused lots of controversy in 1998 when they put this formula in the election law. The formula is very much in favour of the winner, and the winner will take more seats,” Koul Panha said.
It is due to this “unique” formula, as Koul Panha described it, that in 2007, SRP ended up with just 23.42 per cent of commune seats in the Kingdom despite winning 25.19 per cent of the vote.
The discrepancies are accentuated by big wins and losses in particular communes.
For example, the NRP garnered 8.11 per cent of the popular vote in 2007, but earned just 3.74 per cent of the seats – a prospect the HRP will face despite storming into the political sphere with 9.8 per cent of the popular vote.
“This is why in the National Assembly, the CPP has 58 per cent of the vote but 70 per cent of the seats,” Koul Panha said. “Many people suggest using the formula used during the UNTAC time, because it is fairer for the small opposition parties, and in Thailand, they use a proportional formula where if you get 60 per cent of the vote, you get 60 per cent of the seats.”
In 2007, despite winning only 60.82 per cent of the popular vote, the CPP secured 70.40 per cent of commune seats.
The CPP scooped up 62 per cent of the popular vote in Sunday’s elections in which about 64 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Monitors reported up to a 20 per cent drop in voter turnout for the commune elections, however, Koul Panha said this should not be attributed to apathy.
“People do think the commune elections are important, but maybe not that important that they would sacrifice time and money going to vote,” he said.
“The national election is a different thing and more people are interested,” he said, adding it was “very common” to get a lower turnout at the commune level.