Initial Election Results Point to CPP, Sam Rainsy Party

The Cambodia Daily

Inside a school room in Russei Keo district’s Chroy Changva commune, a young woman blackens her finger in a bottle of ink—a sign that she has voted in Sun­day’s commune council elections. She does this deliberately, almost solemnly, but suddenly wrestles her hand out of the election monitor’s grip and tries—laughing—to blacken the startled woman’s nose with ink.

This abrupt giddiness played itself out over and over as millions of Cambodians voted for commune leaders that in their own words would not be “corrupt” or “lazy.”

Results of those millions of marked ballots will start becoming known today, but there were early indications Sunday from party officials and elections observers that Funcinpec had fared poorly.

According to both Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara and opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, the CPP won 70 of the 76 communes in Phnom Penh, with the Sam Rainsy Party claiming the remainder.

Sam Rainsy said Sunday night his party prevailed in these six communes: Phsar Daum Thkow, Boeng Salang, Tuk La’ak I, Tuk La’ak II, Boeng Tumpun and Kilometer Six.

Some unofficial results posted at Phnom Penh polling sites: Tonle Bassac commune (10 polling places): CPP 1,041, Sam Rainsy Party 972, Funcinpec 499; Sothearos (9 polling places): SRP 1,245, CPP 1,219, Funcinpec 336. Chey Chumneas (13 polling places): CPP 2,116, SRP 1,755, Funcinpec 483.

The National Election Com­mittee announced a handful of unofficial Phnom Penh commune results Sunday night:

Boeng Keng Kang I: CPP 2,262, SRP 1,496, Funcinpec 460; Olympic: CPP 2,086, SRP 1,203, Funcinpec 248; Tuol Svay Prey I: CPP 2,042, SRP 2,015, Funcinpec 383; Tuol Svay Prey II: CPP 2,052, SRP 1,655, Funcinpec 392; Phsar Thmei I: CPP 1,571, SRP 975, Funcinpec 210; Boeng Reang: CPP 1,486, SRP 1,047, Funcinpec 344; Chaktomuk: CPP 2,165, SRP 1,047, Funcinpec 401; Wat Phnom: CPP 1,632, Funcinpec 872, SRP 619.

O‘Russei II: CPP 2,022, SRP 1,784, Funcinpec 435; O‘Russei IV: CPP 1,599, SRP 1,568, Funcinpec 443; Phsar Depot I: CPP 2,129, SRP 1,582, Funcinpec 402; Phsar Depot II: CPP 1,872, SRP 1,390, Funcinpec 383; Prey Veng: CPP 980, SRP 384, Funcinpec 205; Krang Pongro: CPP 656, Funcinpec 229, SRP 191; Phnom Penh Thmei: CPP 3,748, SRP 2,968, Funcinpec 966; Chroy Changva: CPP 3,321, SRP 1,323, Funcunpec 971.

Elsewhere in the country observers also reported that Funcinpec was not doing well. Final results may not be available until Feb 19, according to the National Election Committee.

“I am satisfied with the results,” said Seng Ly, the CPP’s number one candidate in Daun Penh district’s Chey Chumneah commune. “But according to the [party] survey, CPP should [be getting] more.”

“We have made significant gains in terms of votes,” Sam Rainsy said. “But in the provinces, Funcinpec is still very strong.”

Despite the potentially drastic shift in who holds power at the local level, the polling stations in the 1,621 communes resembled market day as much as an infant step toward democracy.

In Boeng Keng Kang 3 commune in Phnom Penh, whole families arrived at a primary school-turned polling station, filling time spent in voting lines with small talk and half-hearted complaints.

“Can’t you have two more workers to help check voter registration cards?” one man asked. “The [National Election Committee] woman takes a long time checking cards, and while she does that the four other NEC people are waiting.”

No, he is told by an NEC worker, there is not enough money to hire more staff.

An old man trembled as he held a ballot that he could not understand. After 10 minutes an NEC worker explained that he must select a party and mark the square next to it.

The months leading up to Sunday’s vote have been plagued by suspicious killings and intimidation.

But East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao, in Cambodia acting as co-chair of the international election monitor Anfrel, said the number of deaths was relatively small number when compared to the number of election participants.

“There was some violence, but you must take into account the population of Cambodia,” he said. About 5.2 million Cambodians were registered to vote for some 75,000 candidates.

The elections mark the first time leadership could change in many communes that have often been ruled by the same person since the early 1980s, when the Vietnamese-installed government first appointed chiefs. Many commune chiefs have been accused of working only for the CPP and not for commune residents.

In a statement read on state-owned TV Sunday, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the current commune chiefs to be ready to hand over “power and duties’’ to the newly-elected chiefs. He asked all parties to be patient while the NEC solved what he called “technical problems at a small number of polling places.”

Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh Sunday pledged to work with the government, but expressed concern they could be more violence as power changes hands at the local level.

Most voters were just happy to be part of the process.

“I made a clear decision to vote—just not who to vote for,” said Touch Chantha, a 37-year-old mother of eight in Chaom Chau commune, Dangkao district, who said would not make up her mind until the ballot was in her hand.

Others were intent on “voting their conscience” rather than along party lines or even for candidates they might know personally.

“Some candidates might come try to pursuade us to vote for them and they have that right, but I want a new commune council that is going to work for my interests and not their own political party,” said Ngeth Thida.

The elections “are going to force a change in local politics,” said Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. “All the parties are now going to the [grassroots] foundation for power.”

Both Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party suggested they could win between 30 and 40 percent of the votes. But pre-election sniping between Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy may have actually weakened their chances against the CPP.

While the politicians argued, for some voters the election was nothing more than a brief holiday.

“I want nothing from the election,” said 22-year-old Chea Saran, who with her friend, Hin Thavary, 18, took the day off from their factory jobs. “But if I don’t vote, my salary will be docked.” .


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