The chart to the right is an exercise in numbers, not a prediction of how Sunday’s commune council elections will turn out.
These numbers were compiled by taking the 1998 national election results and breaking them down by province. The percentage won by all three major parties was calculated, and the votes for the 36 minor parties listed on the 1998 ballot were added to the major party totals in proportion to the number of votes the major parties received in each province.
Those adjusted percentages were then applied to the number of communes in each province to calculate how many communes each party might carry Sunday. For example, the CPP’s adjusted percentage of votes in Banteay Meanchey province in 1998 was 44 percent, which would translate to 28 communes the CPP might expect to carry in 2002.
Among the many variables the chart doesn’t take into account are the following:
• Nobody knows whether people will be voting for the person or the party. This is an election in which most voters will know the candidates on the ballot. Many are neighbors and friends—or enemies. This raises significant questions about whether voting in 2002 will follow 1998 patterns.
• All 1,621 current commune chiefs were appointed by the CPP. The CPP did not run 30 percent of these chiefs in an attempt to infuse new blood into the party. But there are still hundreds of incumbent chiefs on the ballot, and incumbency is a major political advantage.
• The minor party vote in 1998 was as high as 15 percent in some provinces. It can be argued that these voters are not likely to be CPP supporters in 2002, on the theory that a minor party vote was a protest vote against the CPP-controlled government.
• Oddar Meanchey province was carved out of Siem Reap province after the 1998 balloting. So the percentages used for the Oddar Meanchey projection for 2002 are the same percentages as those used for Siem Reap.
As calculated in the chart, CPP would carry 50 percent of the communes, followed by Funcinpec (34 percent) and the Sam Rainsy Party (16 percent). The CPP has said publicly its goal is to carry 70 percent of the communes. In private conversations CPP members have said 60 percent might be a more realistic goal.
No matter how the balloting turns out, all three parties will be taking a close look at the voting patterns as they prepare for a national election scheduled for May or June 2003.