The recounts of three Takeo communes Wednesday showed results almost identical to the original counts, despite opposition predictions that the second tally would turn up major discrepancies.
But party agents did point out a peculiarity in one commune that hints at one of the most sophisticated types of ballot fraud.
Overall, the recounts for Prambei Mom, Srae Ronong and Sophi communes showed no major miscounts in favor of the ruling party. What discrepancies there were appeared minor, according to international observers and electoral officials.
One international observer said the clean counts are a “bad blow” for the opposition’s campaign to discredit the election results in the eyes of the world.
NEC Secretary-General Im Suorsdei said Wednesday he was pleased with the recounts, which were ordered after complaints by Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party that their observers were not able to see the whole process.
“There is no discrepancy between the valid ballots,” Im Suorsdei said. “We can say now that the complaint was not so good.”
The NEC recounted five other communes Wednesday in response to opposition complaints.
While the three recounts finished so far did not highlight any major fraud, Sam Rainsy Party agents pointed out peculiarities in Srae Ronong commune. The agents said many of the CPP-marked ballots there seemed to be marked with the same ink, and the neat check mark in the CPP box looked almost uniform.
One international observer present at the Srae Ronong recount said the party agents protested the uniform checks on “a majority, but not all” of the CPP ballots.
Similar check marks could be a sign of a practice known as “telegraphing,” a combination of intimidation and fraud in which voters are handed a pre-marked ballot outside the polling station and told they must bring out the blank ballot given to them inside.
When the voter brings out the blank ballot, the gatekeeper marks it and gives it to the next voter, who continues the cycle.
If not caught at the polling station, telegraphing is virtually undetectable in the counting, said one international observer. “The question is whether or not this recounting is going to pick up the kind of fraud that might have taken place,” the observer said.
But similar checkmarks are a long way from evidence of fraud. The elections watchdog group Committee for Free and Fair Elections had previously not reported widespread instances of telegraphing on election day.
Comfrel First Representative Thun Saray said Wednesday that his staff would double-check with Srae Ronong commune’s observer. “We have no report on that. We need to check tomorrow.”
He added that he is not sure of the significance of similar marks: “In one ballot station, they often give one pen for everyone to mark with. For marking the same way, I don’t know.”
Telegraphing, or “triangular voting” as Thun Saray calls it, is usually caught when an observer notices voters smuggling in a marked ballot. He said the large ballot for this election would make smuggling a ballot harder.