The SRP on Tuesday rejected the CPP’s election victory in Poipet commune—the site of what may have been the lowest voter turnout in the country—alleging that voters were blocked and bribed to stay away from Sunday’s polls.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said by telephone that his party does not recognize the CPP’s victory in Cambodia’s biggest commune, located in Banteay Meanchey province, and called for a new election. The CPP resorted to “tricks and techniques” to prevent Poipet’s SRP supporters from voting, he claimed.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, a CPP official, said his party won legitimately in Poipet, adding that Sam Rainsy’s claims were baseless.
“It’s a groundless allegation because when [the SRP] lose, they cry,” he said. “The competition is done and the loser shouldn’t complain,” he added.
The CPP won seven Poipet commune council seats, trumping the SRP’s three seats and the Norodom Ranariddh Party’s one seat, Sam Rainsy said. The SRP won the Poipet commune chief position at the last election in 2002.
Sam Rainsy alleged that SRP supporters in Poipet were offered bribes not to vote, and Cambodians working in Thailand were prevented by border police from crossing back into the country to vote. Some casinos restricted their workers from leaving work to vote, he added.
Only about 30 percent of more than 60,000 registered voters in Poipet showed up to the polls Sunday, said Mar Sophal, monitoring coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, adding that the figure was currently the lowest in the country.
Comfrel has received reports that CPP activists in the commune organized small parties and gave out gifts to voters the night before the election, Mar Sophal said.
“The CPP tried very hard to organize the vote in Poipet and regain control…. The CPP also affected voter turnout,” he said.
Ly Huang, Comfrel’s Banteay Meanchey coordinator, said the low turnout was also due to voters’ inability to find their names at their assigned polling stations.
San Sean Hor, a CPP commune candidate in Poipet, said his party had used legitimate means to ensure victory, and that the SRP simply did not appeal to voters. “[The SRP] did not know the heart of the voter, they did not know the right direction to take them in,” he said.