National Election Body to Start Vote Recount Today

The national election body will today start recounting votes for communes across the country where the winners in June 4’s commune elections were decided by the narrowest of margins.

Though complete official results from the National Election Committee (NEC) are pending, the ruling CPP is claiming to have won a commanding 1,158 of the country’s 1,646 communes. It says the CNRP won all but one of the rest, a major gain for the country’s main opposition party over its results in 2012.

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NEC officials speaks at the Hotel Sofitel Phnom Penh to explain the vote counting process for commune election earlier this month. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Despite its strong showing, the CNRP has asked for recounts in 27 communes across at least five provinces where it lost by less than 0.5 percent of the total vote, whether in the initial tally or after a CPP-requested recount.

Meng Sopheary, the party’s head of electoral and legislative affairs, said the NEC’s provincial committees have either already recounted the votes or rejected the CNRP’s request in 11 of those communes, all in the CPP’s favor, prompting the CNRP to ask for recounts by the NEC itself. She said the NEC would recount the votes in the first of those 11 communes—Doung commune in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district—today in Phnom Penh.

Ms. Sopheary said the CNRP initially won the commune by three votes, then lost it by one after the CPP asked for and won a recount by the provincial election committee, prompting the CNRP’s complaint to the NEC on Saturday.

Requests for recounts in 10 other communes reached the NEC on Sunday. Provincial committees are still dealing with 16.

“It has a serious effect, because if just one vote favors a party, that party will win the commune,” Ms. Sopheary said.

The CNRP is also seeking recounts in the provinces of Kompong Thom, Pailin, Prey Veng and Stung Treng. It filed six other complaints over Election Day irregularities for which they have not demanded recounts. Those have all been settled at the commune level.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said his party had asked for recounts in communes it narrowly lost as well but could not recall how many.

“We have filed complaints asking for recounts of some polling stations we are suspicious about,” he said. “Any place we are suspicious about, we must react and request a review.”

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea confirmed that the votes from all 23 of Doung commune’s polling stations would be recounted in Phnom Penh today, but said he could not recall how many other communes would be receiving the same treatment.

He said 79 complaints had been filed since Election Day in all, both from parties and from independent observers.

Most independent observers have deemed Election Day largely a success, marred by relatively few irregularities. But they have also blamed the government for passing laws, making arrests and issuing public warnings of war and violence in the lead-up to the day itself that kept the election from being free and fair.

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