As the National Election Committee launched into the recount process for contested communes yesterday, an election watchdog coalition announced it had found that 95 percent of a sample of polling stations’ vote count forms from the election body matched those compiled by the group itself.
The group, known as the “Situation Room”, randomly sampled 481 of the nation’s 22,148 polling stations and found that around 5 percent of their 1102 forms – the forms showing vote counts for individual stations – had minor deviations from the 1102s filed by Situation Room observers.
The deviations included incorrect vote counts, differences in the number of invalid votes and missing party representative signatures.
However, according to Koul Panha, head of Comfrel and a member of the Situation Room, “After a deep analysis of these forms, we found that the around 5 percent difference will not make any difference to results in those communes.”
The Situation Room also found that 1.8 percent of votes in its sample had been deemed invalid by voting officials, saying this indicated that recounts could be needed in tight races.
“There is a small gap between the contesting parties and there are many invalid votes,” Panha said. “If there is only 0.5 percent difference between parties [in a certain commune], we request the NEC to do a recount.”
He added that 30 commune-level forms had also been assessed, and only one commune was found to have a differing outcome from the NEC’s preliminary results for those locales.
Panha did commend the June 4 election as one of the first times both parties had not immediately contested the outcome of the ballot. “The two [major] parties have not rejected these preliminary results,” he said.
“It shows that the NEC has worked with transparency and the political parties have capacity to collect election data and calculate for themselves.”
Nonetheless, results in some individual communes were challenged. Yesterday the NEC began performing a recount on all ballots from Svay Rieng’s Doung commune at its office in Phnom Penh.
After the elections, the CNRP had a slim 2,599 to 2,596 lead, but a recount of invalid ballots from select Doung polling stations at the provincial level gave the CPP a one-vote lead.
As of the end of the NEC counting yesterday, the CPP had extend its lead to five ballots, according to CNRP official and observer Suon Chamroeun, who said the CPP’s votes totalled 2,587 to the CNRP’s 2,582. But CNRP and CPP officials continued to tussle over the validity of previously invalid ballots. In one instance, a voter had drawn a line across the CPP logo instead of marking a tick in the allotted box.
While that ballot was deemed a valid vote for the CPP, the CNRP has asked the nine-member NEC to deliberate on the validity of ballots it deemed to fall in its favour, but which were ruled invalid.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said a decision would be taken today after a nearly two-hour long meeting yielded no result.
Earlier in the day, Meng Sopheary, CNRP’s head of elections, said the party had filed a total of 22 complaints to the NEC: two regarding threats to candidates, and the rest related to recounts and disparity in election results across Battambang, Phnom Penh, Takeo, Kampot and Kampong Thom provinces.