Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - City seers provide their poll forecasts

City seers provide their poll forecasts

A fortuneteller predicts the results of the upcoming commune elections at her stall along the riverside yesterday in Phnom Penh.
A fortuneteller predicts the results of the upcoming commune elections at her stall along the riverside yesterday in Phnom Penh. Erin Handley

City seers provide their poll forecasts

After lighting a cluster of incense sticks and bowing three times, a fortuneteller on the capital’s north side yesterday draped his neck with wooden beads and ivory carvings before fanning out a deck of playing cards.

One of Phnom Penh’s most prominent clairvoyants, he claims the fate of the hotly contested commune elections this coming Sunday sits right at his fingertips.

On a crimson tablecloth, two cards are overturned: the ace of clubs, representing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and the ace of diamonds, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

“I am very surprised at the two aces. This is the magic,” the fortuneteller said. The two aces, he says, show it is “very, very close”. There will be complaints but no protests, tension but no bloodshed.

The CPP, he predicts, will have a narrow victory; around 52 percent to 48 percent.

He divined the opposition’s vulnerability from the presence of the notorious ace of spades; if a sick man comes to have his fortune told and overturns this unlucky card, it could spell out his death.

But when asked which communes will be dominated by which parties – and about the fate of jailed human rights defenders in the Kingdom – he demurs.

“I am just a fortuneteller, I am not an analyst,” he said.

Indeed, the city’s seers – like its analysts – aren’t totally certain what will happen on June 4. But on the strict condition of anonymity, three prognosticators, who collect coin in exchange for fortunes, agreed to share their election predictions with The Post.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
According to one fortune teller’s cards, the CPP, represented by the ace of clubs, is predicted to gain a narrow victory over the opposition, represented by the ace of diamonds. Erin Handley

The talisman-draped diviner’s auguring credentials stem from his ancestry – his grandfather, he says, was capable of almost biblical feats.

“He took a scarf and chanted over it, then he threw it on the ground. It became a snake,” he said.

“Then after the snake danced, it turned back into a scarf.”

He added that when he narrowly avoided a fatal car bombing that claimed 24 people’s lives during Lon Nol’s reign, he took it as a sign.

Interpreting a row of aces and eights yesterday, he said that while 70 percent of CNRP supporters are “really brave”, the remaining 30 percent are “very scared”, and could switch their vote to the ruling party.

“The CNRP only have supporters, while the CPP have a lot of money and resources,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Phnom Penh’s riverside, a lady in purple sitting among lotus blooms also claims to have powers of foresight.

Like the first augurer, this seer says the election will be close; she can read it on the cards.

But first the cards offer some contradictory predictions: first, that the CPP will win 80 percent of the vote, then that the CNRP will take 90 percent.

Also finding the ace of spades – which is “very, very bad” and signifies there will be confrontations – she said the CPP will ultimately prove the victor.

“There is tension. The CPP will win, but there’s violence. There are no arrests and no deaths,” she said. “The cards show that they will discuss and negotiate with each other.”

But in the bowels of Boeung Keng Kang market, a young self-proclaimed clairvoyant in black foresees a different outcome.

“The CNRP will have the really strong majority of the vote, there will be so many votes for the CNRP,” she says, pointing to a pair of red aces as proof.

Again, the ace of spades appears: A CNRP victory would not be without conflict.

“They win, but maybe they cannot secure it if there is a problem,” she said. “The elections will be free and fair, but there is a mystery we cannot see into.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A young diviner predicts a CNRP victory before a shrine at her stall in Boeung Keng Kang market yesterday. Erin Handley

“They will make a deal, but we do not know what the deal is,” she said.

The Kingdom often engages in ceremonial superstitions: The Moha Songkran almanac, containing a slew of prophecies, is compiled by the Ministry of Cults and Religion for every Khmer New Year, while an annual ploughing ceremony foretells crop yields based on royal oxen’s eating preferences.

Even Prime Minister Hun Sen last year lauded a Thai fortuneteller’s “perfectly correct” predictions, which foretold the CNRP’s downfall.

Social researcher Meas Ny said high-ranking officials often used augury and prayer to their political advantage. But he said that while the elderly still held a lot of trust in old traditions, “it’s not very popular with the youth, who are more obsessed with technology”.

CPP Spokesman Suos Yara said he was unfazed by the predictions of a tight result.

“My personal fortuneteller told [me] that we will win by a landslide,” Yara said via text.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A fortune teller predicts the results of the upcoming commune elections at her stall along the riverside yesterday in Phnom Penh. Erin Handley

CNRP deputy Eng Chhay Eang, on the other hand, laughed off the prophecies. “I do not believe in fortunetellers,” he said. “This is not up to the fortuneteller, it is up to the people’s will.”

The commune elections are widely regarded by both major parties as a forecast for next year’s crucial national election. But for the fate of that contest, the fortunetellers yesterday predicted enquirers would have to come back and ask again next year.

Yet according to Ny, the social researcher, something other than augury might be more helpful in 2018: proper political polling.

“I support the polling,” he said. “This is really needed, but because of the anxiety around political parties [and] because Cambodia is still politically fragile, maybe we need to move slowly.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 foreigners in Cambodia, the bulk being from the UK, have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly them out of the Kingdom. The petition is targeted at 15,000 foreigners. Among them are nearly 200 Europeans, the majority

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • PM set to mend ties with US

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to US Congressman Ted Yoho, saying he is ready to improve Cambodia-US relations, and not take up issues of disagreements which have become a barrier between the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. His response to Yoho came after the congressman

  • Mysterious century-old structure found at bottom of Angkor pond

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a mysterious 1,000-year-old structure of a wooden building at the bottom of a pond after the Angkor Wat temple’s conservation team completed restoring its northern cave. The deputy director at ANA’s Angkor International Research and Documentation

  • China sends more test kits

    The Ministry of Health has ramped up its preparation to stem the spread of the deadly Covid-19 disease in the Kingdom thanks to help from the Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations which donated 20,000 test kits to the Kingdom. On March 28, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang