Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his Funcinpec followers worried before Sunday’s commune elections about losing votes to the Sam Rainsy Party. It turns out they were looking in the wrong direction.
Based on unofficial vote totals, it was the CPP that made huge gains at Funcinpec’s expense, further weakening their government coalition partner on the eve of the 2003 national elections.
CPP received 61 percent of Sunday’s vote, a 20 percent increase over 1998. Funcinpec slumped from 32 percent to 22 percent, while the Sam Rainsy Party posted a modest gain from 14 to nearly 17 percent. CPP insiders had predicted they would attract 60 percent of the votes.
There were 36 minor parties in 1998 who siphoned off 15 percent of the votes. Five minor parties in Sunday’s election received negligible support.
CPP came out on top in almost 1,600 of the nation’s 1,621 communes. Based on preliminary results, Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy each carried about a dozen communes.
The National Election Committee estimates that perhaps 80 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. Thun Saray, of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, remarked that commune election voters were required to register at their permanent address, and that the travel was too difficult for some.
“And since 1998, there hasn’t been a big change in most people’s lives, so maybe they don’t think elections will provide change,” Thun Saray said.