The Cambodian People’s Party claimed a landslide victory in the National Assembly election Sunday evening with a preliminary prediction of having captured at least 91 seats.
Sam Rainsy cast some doubt on that announcement giving a preliminary estimate of his own, saying that his SRP and CPP each won somewhere between 50 to 70 of the Assembly’s 123 seats. However, preliminary results for several provinces and municipalities released by the National Election Committee Sunday evening give the CPP a commanding lead across the board.
The results announced by each party are based on figures obtained from partisan observers that the two camps had stationed at polls across the country and are not official NEC figures. The NEC did not make any preliminary announcement of the number of seats parties may have won Sunday.
Turnout appeared to be solid, but not spectacular, with about 75 percent of the country’s 8-million-plus registered voters casting a ballot, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said by telephone Sunday evening. This represents a drop from the 2003 national poll, which saw a turnout of 83 percent.
As of 9:30 pm, the CPP had calculated that it would win at least 91 seats, government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said. He added that the SRP looked to be making minimal gains, gathering only 26 Assembly seats according to the CPP’s figures-just two more than the opposition party currently has. Rounding out the field were the Human Rights Party with three seats, the Norodom Ranariddh Party with two and Funcinpec with just one, according to Khieu Kanharith.
“The CPP has increased its seat total because Funcinpec did not receive more votes because of its incorrect strategy,” he said. “Funcinpec was a government partner but they attacked the government. We told Funcinpec in 2003 already, do not attack the government if you’re going to stay with the government, but they did not listen. Because they did this people voted for the CPP instead.”
During a news conference held 6 pm Sunday, SRP President Sam Rainsy said that despite a number of irregularities-particularly in Phnom Penh-his party was running neck and neck with the CPP.
“The SRP and CPP are chasing each other,” he said, adding: “The CPP and SRP are close in terms of seats with between 50 to 70 seats [apiece]. No one party has two-thirds [of Assembly seats]. Any party that claims that they have two-thirds is lying.”
Sam Rainsy reaffirmed this prediction at around 10:30 pm Sunday, even after being informed of the CPP estimate and asked about the preliminary figures being put out by the NEC.
“I don’t believe it,” he said. “It is political psychological warfare aimed at intimidating non-ruling parties.”
Earlier in the day, Sam Rainsy also demanded a revote for Phnom Penh claiming Sunday evening that too many voters had been deleted from the rolls for the election to be considered fair in the capital.
“We will have to have a new election in Phnom Penh to give justice to the people,” he said. “We don’t recognize the Phnom Penh election result.” Sam Rainsy went on to vow to lead a protest in the coming days if there was no revote in the capital.
The SRP won Phnom Penh in 2003, but according to preliminary results from the NEC, the CPP dominated this time around, taking 52.33 percent of the vote to the SRP’s 36.52 percent.
Earlier in the day around 200 SRP supporters had gathered at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters to complain that they had tried to vote earlier in the day but could not find their names on the voter list.
Top Phan, 55, said that her name and that of her husband and daughter were nowhere to be found at any of the polling stations in Meanchey district’s Boeng Tompun commune-a complaint echoed by many other SRP supporters from the commune. “I went to the district office and they said, “If your name is not on the list then you have to go home, you can’t vote,” she said. “I want to vote, it is my right,” she added, producing registration documents, fully stamped by election officials and clearly stating which polling station she was supposed to vote in.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said in an interview Sunday morning that his party feared that there could be upwards of 60,000 SRP supporters that were denied the right to vote in Phnom Penh. He placed blame for the voters’ plight on the CPP and NEC.
“The CPP seems to have known that they would lose the election, so they planned this in advance with the NEC,” he alleged. “The same thing happened in 2003 and last year, but not in these numbers.”
Tep Nytha said that the SRP cannot use the voter lists as a rationale for demanding a revote, and that he was unaware of any evidence of list manipulation.
“Those voter lists were adopted in February. The complaints needed to be filed during the election registration, not on election day,” he said.
Election monitoring NGO Comfrel also commented Sunday on the lower turnout, putting the figure at around 70 percent. They said that a number of polling station locations were changed in a number of locations, which may have confused would-be voters.
Additionally, the cleaning of the voter list last year to eliminate “ghost voters” and update the information of registered voters looks to have also eliminated many eligible voters from the rolls. This problem was particularly bad in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune-where voter turnout was as low as 30 percent-and the aforementioned Boeng Tompun commune.
“This is a serious problem which led to many voters not being able to find their names,” said Thun Sary, Comfrel’s chairman of the board. “And this has effected the result of the election.”
Another point of concern was that local officials were loitering in the vicinity of polling stations, an act that could potentially intimidate voters.
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)