Gamblers Turn Political for Election Period Elections

In Battambang province, where gamblers bet on everything from boxing to the weather, politics is throwing bookkeepers into a frenzy.

Last week, people bet thousands of dollars ahead of Friday’s announcement by the National Election Committee of official preliminary election results.

While unofficial ballot counts in the past weeks have shown a strong victory for the CPP, gamblers were speculating on whe­ther Funcinpec or the Sam Rain­sy Party would win the No 2 position in the National Assembly.

Ean Khon, a resident of Bat­tam­bang province’s Thmar Koul district, said he has placed about 500 baht ($11.96) on the latter. More profitable businessmen, he said, make wagers of up to $1,000.

“If Sam Rainsy wins, I take 20 baht for every 100 baht that I bet,” Ean Khon said.

But lately, he said, the stakes have reversed. While many people had originally placed their bets on the Sam Rainsy Party for the No 2 position, the odds are now stacked in favor of Funcin­pec, he said. NEC figures indicate that Funcin­pec will receive 26 of the 123 seats in the Assembly, while the Sam Rainsy Party will get 24.

Seat allocation will not be determined by the NEC until next month.

Still, Ean Khon said he’s happy to participate in the wager.

“It’s very popular and I enjoy playing this game,” he said, add­ing that he’s already won more than $10 for betting on CPP as the election winner.

Kroek Chee, who also lives in Thmar Koul district, said he has bet about 300 baht ($7.17), that Funcinpec will emerge ahead of the Sam Rainsy Party.

“I take any party that most people in my village and other villages express their satisfaction for,” he said. But, he admitted, it will be a close finish.

Thun Saray, a representative of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Wednesday the number of seats that each party wins is still unclear. He said that while Funcinpec may win more seats, the Sam Rainsy Party has won more votes.

In a few prov­inces, such as Kompong Thom and Svay Rieng, the opposition party was only a few hundred ballots short of winning an additional seat.

Any element of uncertainty, he said, is fueling the public’s passion for gambling.

“Cambodian people bet on every game and they gamble pub­licly,” he said. “They bet for football, lotteries, whether it rains, and, now, they are betting for seats between the Sam Rainsy and Fun­cinpec parties.”


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