Diplomats Say CPP Ahead in Tight Race
Confusion and uncertainty reigned Monday as Cambodians nervously awaited the results of Sunday’s historic national elections.
The National Election Committee at the last minute canceled plans to announce preliminary results Monday night, citing communications and technical problems in getting clear information.
“Unfortunately, we have to announce that these results are not clear enough to announce,” NEC spokesman Samraing Kamsan said Monday night. “We want to wait for information to be clear and sure….We hope we will be able to announce results tomorrow.”
However, diplomatic sources said it appeared the CPP had garnered enough votes to lead the next government.
“It looks like CPP will have 50 or 51 seats, Funcinpec between 40 and 43 and [Sam] Rainsy, 29,” said an Asian diplomat at 1 am today, citing reports from parties and the NEC.
He also said it was possible that Funcinpec could take the greatest number of votes but the second-most number of seats in the National Assembly.
A Western diplomat said preliminary reports he collected indicated the CPP could win more than 60 of the Assembly’s 122 seats.
But a Western political analyst was cautious about reports of a substantial CPP victory.
“I don’t think a picture is emerging at this point in time, except to say that the CPP and Funcinpec are slugging it out, with Sam Rainsy in a solid third,” the analyst said.
Partial results trickled in to different party headquarters Monday, but most were inconclusive and unconfirmed. Both the CPP and Funcinpec said they were doing well.
Pressed to comment why the NEC delayed preliminary results, Samraing Kamsan said communication problems had muddled things. “The sky is very dark, the [radio] communication is very bad,” he said, adding that as for written material, “Some papers have no official stamp, some we couldn’t see the numbers clearly.”
He did not say why the NEC chose not to announce figures from Phnom Penh.
The Western diplomat said the NEC was wisely employing caution by not releasing partial results.
“The reason they didn’t announce the results is because the stakes are quite high,” he said. “Partial results could be destabilizing.”
But the delay prompted suspicion among some opposition party members.
“We are not happy with this delay. It is unclear what is going on,” said Funcinpec steering committee member Ek Sereywath. “We know what the CPP is saying, at least 60 seats, and we are trying to determine if it is true. It seems we have done better than that.”
An international election observer said the delay would inevitably fuel suspicion of fraud.
“This is a country that lives on rumors and conspiracy theories,” he said. “If you are a Cambodian watching this, what are you going to think?” Funcinpec’s own figures from Kompong Cham, the most populous province with 18 of the 122 National Assembly seats, showed the royalist party of Prince Norodom Ranariddh in the lead.
With all but seven party agents in the province’s 173 counting centers reporting, Funcinpec officials in Kompong Cham said the party had just over 50 percent of the vote. The CPP was trailing with 33 percent and Sam Rainsy Party with 17 percent, the party claimed. Separate figures provided by the Sam Rainsy Party appeared to reflect a similar trend.
The CPP was doing its own tabulations behind closed doors, using information provided by its extensive network of party observers.
Some party officials were talking confidently Monday evening about 61 seats. But party spokesman Khieu Kanharith earlier said the CPP’s partial tabulations showed his party and Funcinpec “neck and neck” nationwide.
Khieu Kanharith said that party figures for the eight single-seat constituencies, in which the single party with the most votes takes the seat, were favorable. “We already know about the one-seat constituencies already. Seven to CPP and one to Sam Rainsy,” he claimed.
A seven-seat headstart for the CPP in those areas could give the party an advantage if Funcinpec and the CPP are close in other provinces.
Khieu Kanharith said CPP figures showed that Sam Rainsy Party was leading in Pailin “but that is not final yet.”
Sam Rainsy’s own figures for Phnom Penh, with party agents from 90 percent of the counting centers reporting, showed a three-way split, with Funcinpec emerging as the winner with 36 percent followed closely by the CPP and Sam Rainsy Party with 31 and 33 percent, respectively. The party figures could not be confirmed.
The parties, like the NEC, appeared to be having some trouble getting reports in. Funcinpec’s Phnom Penh headquarters had partial figures from only nine of the nation’s 23 constituencies.
Most results reported to parties were partial—in some cases extremely so.
The Sam Rainsy Party listed itself as leading in Preah Vihear with 50 percent of the vote to Funcinpec and CPP’s 25 percent each. The only problem was that the total number of votes reported was four—two for Sam Rainsy, one for the CPP and one for Funcinpec.
The NEC had been scheduled to begin announcing partial results as they came in starting at 7 pm Monday. But an eager crowd of journalists, diplomats and human rights workers turned restive after nearly two hours of waiting. Finally, Samraing Kamsan came out to announce there would be no announcement.
NEC member Tip Chanvibol said the electoral body did not want to release any figures they were not certain about.
“The results are not fully validated,” he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. “I hope it is not political, but technical. There’s different views on the situation within the NEC. We want to be able to be sure.”
And Allen Keesee, a coordinator with the Neutral and Independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the NEC was prudent not to release unclear results.
“If the NEC was unprepared, I think it is better that they put the announcement off rather than releasing results they were not sure of,” Keesee said. “The numerical results we have got have been very fragmented, and I see no reason to believe that the NEC’s would be any different. It is just a function of the communication process.”
(Reported by Kay Johnson, Khuy Sokhoeun, Catherine Philp, Stew Magnuson, Chris Decherd and Freya Williams)