Ex-Royalist Bags KNUP Commune
While 1,645 of the country’s 1,646 communes were divvied up between the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP during Sunday’s ballot, one remote commune in Banteay Meanchey province went against the grain once again and handed the Khmer National United Party (KNUP) its first-ever commune chief position.
Da Chhean, who defected from Funcinpec to the KNUP last year when former military commander Nhek Bun Chhay left the royalists to launch his own party, held his position as commune chief in Thma Puok district’s Thma Puok commune on the Thai border.
This is the second local election in a row in which Thma Puok has been the only commune in the country not to have voted in either the CPP or a major opposition party. It was Funcinpec’s sole commune chief position in 2012, so Mr. Chhean’s defection means his former party does not control a single commune in Cambodia. (George Wright)
Adhoc Defector Out on Top for CPP
Chhay Thy, the former Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc who made headlines in January when he defected to the ruling party, won the commune chief position in O’yadaw district’s Pate commune on Sunday.
Pate, which was the only commune in the northeastern province to elect an opposition chief in 2012, also saw the new Grassroots Democracy Party beat the CNRP for second place, according to the National Election Committee’s preliminary results. “I am very proud that the people voted for a CPP commune chief because they believed in my capacity to help their community,” Mr. Thy said. “We will do as promised, such as building a rural road accessible from their farms.” (Van Roeun)
Flooding Didn’t Stop Vote in Provinces
Flooded roads and polling stations as well as waterways clogged with water hyacinths were no match for determined voters and election officials in several provinces, National Election Committee (NEC) president Sik Bunhok said after the polls closed on Sunday.
Inundated roads temporarily blocked the delivery of election materials to polling stations in Oddar Meanchey, Kratie and Mondolkiri provinces, Mr. Bunhok said during a news conference in Phnom Penh. “Kratie and Mondolkiri required intervention by airplane in order to provide the election equipment to the polling offices,” he said.
In Battambang province’s Koh Chivaing commune, an overgrowth of water hyacinths threatened to stop voters and election officers from reaching polling stations located on the water and only accessible by boat, Mr. Bunhok said. That was until authorities moved them out of the way. In four provinces, flooded polling sites had to be moved to nearby higher ground, with signs placed at the original locations to notify voters, he said. (Phan Soumy)
Tuk-Tuk Driver-Cum-Observer Sees ‘No Problems’
Taking a day off from chauffeuring customers around Phnom Penh in his tuk-tuk, election observer Keo Phalla said on Sunday that voting had gone much more smoothly than his first time monitoring elections in 2013. “Since polls opened until now, it’s been good. There have been no problems,” said Mr. Phalla, 50, a short, cheery man wearing a blue polo.
An observer for election monitor Comfrel, he was stationed at Kolab Primary School in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune. “Before, when they counted the votes, you couldn’t watch,” he said. “Now, we’ll be able to watch.”
He also noted that the ballots would be counted at the polling stations, an improvement over the last election, when they were moved to a separate office to be tallied. (Brendan O’Byrne and Matt Surrusco)
Vigilante Election Observer Voices Concerns on Results
Clutching a paper with a scribbled tally of Phsar Kandal 1 village election results, 38-year-old Khuy Hok reviewed his calculations various times on Sunday afternoon as he stood before the Tonle Sap riverside polling stations.
“I worry about the results,” the vigilante election observer said. “I am a bit worried about them announcing the results—that they might be different than the ones now.” According to his calculations, he said, the CNRP had won the commune chief position by 204 votes, with a total of 2018 across the villages. “When they announce the result, I’ll compare my results with the official one,” he said, peering down at his figures once more. (Buth Kimsay)
Younger Brother Unseats His Sibling in Takeo Tussle
In Takeo province’s Doung commune, Sunday night’s election was extra personal for CPP candidate and incumbent commune chief Nop Touch and his younger brother, CNRP challenger Nop Sokheng.
Mr. Sokheng ended up victorious in the contest, beating his sibling with 51.6 percent of the vote compared to Mr. Touch’s 39.3 percent. Contacted yesterday, Mr. Sokheng didn’t appear to be surprised by his victory. “Normally, [the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party] unite together well,” he said. “We weren’t afraid to lose.”
He said he hadn’t seen his brother, who couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday, since the result had been announced. Mr. Sokheng added that he would be getting right down to work, asking the government to bring canals and roads to his commune. “Now we are ready to fulfill our jobs and serve for the people’s benefit,” he said. (Ben Sokhean)