The election was a mess. One voter tried to use a fake ballot. Another brashly refused to ink his index finger. Two others snuck a knife and a campaign flyer into the voting center, respectively. It’s a good thing it wasn’t a real election.
Fake voters tried their best to trip up election monitors Wednesday during a mock election put on by the National Democratic Institute. The 120 prospective election monitors who took part in the exercise came from Cambodia’s four major political parties: CPP, SRP, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party.
The goal was to update monitors on election rules so they can, in turn, go back and train “tens of thousands” of others on how to ensure the upcoming poll in July is fair and free, said Tarikul Ghani, NDI director of programs.
“Doing is learning,” he said from the sidelines of one of the four mock votes held at Phnom Penh’s InterContinentel Hotel.
The three-day training session started Monday, and a second session for another 120 major party members will start today. A third session will start June 9 for members of the other eight smaller parties that have been approved by the National Election Committee to participate in the July 27 election, Ghani said.
Wednesday’s election exercise relied on good-natured role-playing.
Ouch Sam Oeun, a CPP deputy chief from Kompong Speu province, played the man who blanched at dipping his finger in ink to show that he had voted.
“I have to get married tomorrow!” he nearly shouted, trying to keep a straight face as the rest of the trainers in the room laughed at his enthusiasm.
“The role-playing taught me how to solve problems at a real polling station and avoid such things from happening,” he said later.
SRP headquarters official Dina Sakun depicted another potential problem at the polls when he stealthily dropped an SRP party sign on the floor of the faux voting booth.
His intention was, apparently, to influence voters who followed him in. But his alert colleagues caught on almost immediately and threw him out of the polling center.
“This activity showed , as a political party agent, to watch carefully the voters’ attitude,” Dina Sakun said. “We have to learn how the voters cheat on the ballots.”
So Kim Orn, a Funcinpec member from Kompong Thom province, agreed that the mock election was helpful.
“I do not think what we have learned here could apply perfectly in the real situation, but it’s a big aid,” he said, fresh from playing a voter who wore a political party sign on his back.
NRP member Chap Solinin concurred.
“It was a hard role for me to play because I never acted,” she said after imitating a pregnant woman who came to vote. “But I tried because it’s like what could happen in the real situation.”