Revised Formula to Increase CPP Victory Margin

The National Election Committee refined its formula for allocating parliamentary seats in May, a little-noticed change almost guaranteed to benefit the winning party in each province.

The significance of the modification—which most election watchdog groups were unaware of until Thursday—is that the CPP now is projected to win an absolute majority in the 122-seat National Assembly, while under the initial formula the CPP would have fallen a few seats short.

Although the revised formula doesn’t give the CPP enough for the two-thirds needed to convene the government, most laws in Cam­bodia are passed by an absolute majority vote.

According to Khmer-language documents, the change was made between the May 6 draft of the NEC regulations and the final draft dated May 29.

Political parties signed off on the 200-page NEC regulations June 10, but there was no discussion of the formula, NEC spokes­man Leng Sochea acknowledged Friday. “Ev­erybody knew it very well [already],” he said.

But, in fact, party officials, observers and other political analysts contacted Friday were largely unaware of the revised formula or its significance.

“Everybody missed this,” said Lawrence Lach­man­singh, field representative of the democracy-building organization, the Na­tional Democratic Institute.

Belgian analyst Raoul Jennar said he found out about the newer version of the formula when he wrote a column for The Cambo­dia Daily on July 11 describing two different seat-allocation systems.

But because of the complexity of the additional steps, he decided not to include the revised formula in his article. Jennar said he was told in early July that the NEC had already logged the more complex mathematical formula into its computers.

The formulas are used to divide up the seats in the National Assembly. The first part of the equation is simple enough: add up all the votes and divide them by the number of seats. That is how much one seat “costs” in a province.

After making the initial calculation, the two systems differ in how they allot remaining seats with leftover votes.

The revised formula greatly favors the winning party in each province. In several provinces, the CPP and Funcinpec stand to win remaining seats rather than split them with the third-place finisher Sam Rainsy Party as would have happened under the old formula.

Thun Saray, president of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel) projected Friday afternoon that the CPP would win 64 or 65 seats under the revised formula, compared with 59 under the initial formula.

He called the revised formula even more unfair to small parties than the original draft.

“It’s pure mathematics. As you can see from this, the CPP got five, six more seats without any more votes,” an exasperated Thun Saray said. “The CPP are very clever you see, they know the opposition is divided and they are the biggest party and they will use the formula to favor them.”

According to figures from Comfrel using preliminary ballot totals and the refined formula, the CPP got 41.4 percent of the vote nationwide which won them 52 percent of the seats. Sam Rainsy Party got about 14 percent of the national vote, which translated into 12 percent of the seats.

Comfrel said it wasn’t aware of the revised formula until an election adviser notified the group on Thursday that it had been using the wrong formula.

At a press conference Friday, Im Soursdei, NEC secretary-general, only said that the initial draft “was not correct,” and that all political parties had agreed to the change. He declined to elaborate.

But Leng Sochea, an NEC spokesman, acknowledged there was no discussion of the specific formula during the June 10 meeting with political parties.

Leng Sochea defended the revised formula as “improved” and more “detailed” than the draft, and said it had been discussed at one time in the National Assembly. He also said the NEC held a meeting to approve the change.

Technically, it appeared Friday that the CPP-stacked NEC was within its rights to revise the formula.

Article 118 of the Law on the Election of the National Assembly and Political Parties states that all remaining seats shall be decided with a “greatest average formula.”

Several political scientists said Friday that there are many versions of this formula, all of which have benefits and minuses.


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