oddar meanchey/preah vihear provinces – In the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng district, the ruling CPP appeared to be riding the recent development of the area in Oddar Meanchey to a likely victory at the polls Sunday.
SRP officials also said they hoped to make significant gains, with perceived corruption in the area driving supporters to them at the ballot box.
Small CPP flags on many of the Spartan wooden homes in Anlong Veng commune attest to the apparent strength of the ruling party here. The SRP, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party were also fielding candidates, but signs of support were few and far between. About 15 voters interviewed Sunday said they were backing the CPP, most citing development in the commune as the reason.
“The CPP build better roads, schools and hospitals, and they help the poor people,” said party supporter Mov Khem, 52.
The CPP’s strength in Anlong Veng may seem surprising given that the government fought against the Khmer Rouge for decades. Many voters, however, said the CPP’s openness to former Khmer Rouge and the assistance they had provided to villagers had won their support.
In the 2002 commune election, the CPP took seven of the commune council’s nine seats, and several months ago the council’s lone Funcinpec member defected to the ruling party. Even so, the SRP remained confident Saturday that it would take control of the council.
SRP commune councilor Own Sreung said his party hopes to claim six of the council’s seats. “In 2002…people were told that if they joined the Sam Rainsy Party they would lose their land, or that there would be another war,” he said, adding that villagers no longer believe this.
About five voters interviewed said they had cast their ballots for the SRP.
“If Sam Rainsy wins the election, there will be no corruption in the commune,” said Kuy Phoan, 68.
Funcinpec’s hopes were not so high. “I just hope that we can get at least one position,” said the party’s candidate Em Son, a one-legged former Khmer Rouge photographer.
Hout Sambath, first candidate for the NRP, claimed the vote had been rigged in favor of the CPP. “The election result has already been made secretly,” he claimed.
A monitor for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections said there was little in the way of irregularities during the campaign period, and the election looked to be proceeding smoothly Sunday.
A handful of voters were turned away from the polls because the photo on their voting papers had not been stamped by the commune authorities. CPP commune chief Hang Sath said the missing stamps were merely a clerical error. He added that he was going to keep the commune office open until the polls closed so voters could get their forms stamped.
In Kompong Branak commune, in Preah Vihear’s Tbeng Meanchey district, the CPP and SRP were pitted against each other in the same development-versus-corruption struggle.
CPP supporter Chap Panna, 38, said she loves the party because of the development it has brought. “In 1982, there was not much here. But now it is modern and we have good roads,” she said.
Lun Sithann, supervisor of Comfrel’s Preah Vihear office, said the overall election environment was better than in the past. But she noted that around 50 percent of registered voters in Kompong Pranak did not turn out to vote. “Those that did not vote might have thought that their vote has little impact on development,” she said.