Unofficial Tally Gives CPP 1,592 Commune Chiefs

Unofficial results from Sunday’s commune election show that the ruling CPP took 1,592 of Cambo­dia’s 1,621 commune chief positions, while the SRP won 27 and Funcinpec scraped just two, In­terior Ministry spokesman Lieuten­ant General Khieu Sopheak said Monday.

The National Election Commit­tee released preliminary results for select communes in seven provin­ces and four municipalities Mon­day. Out of 362 communes in Rata­nakkiri, Stung Treng, Pursat, Mondolkiri, Kompong Thom, Kampot, Svay Rieng provinces, as well as Phnom Penh, Pailin, Siha­noukville and Kep municipalities, the CPP won 353 commune chief positions, the NEC said. The SRP won eight commune chief posts in the same areas while Fun­cinpec took one, the NEC added.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said that approximately 5 million people cast ballots Sun­day. This is less than 65 percent of the 7.8 million people the NEC had said were registered to vote.

Tep Nytha said that voters seem­ed less interested in commune elections than national elections. Many Phnom Penh voters were apathetic, while some rural voters work far from the commune where they are registered to vote and did not make it to the polls, Tep Nytha said. The NEC plans to examine further why voter turnout was so low, he added.

Final results for the entire country will not be available until April 24.

According to the preliminary figures, the Norodom Ranariddh Party won no commune chief positions, but received 3.9 percent of the votes cast Sunday, twice as many votes as Funcinpec, Khieu Sopheak said.

Only one of the eight small parties competing Sunday won a commune council seat, Khieu Sopheak said, though he was uncertain which party it was. There was a total of 11,353 commune council positions available nationwide this year.

SRP leader Sam Rainsy said his figures showed the SRP had taken 28 commune chief positions, more than double the 13 the SRP won in 2002. The SRP garnered roughly 25 percent of the 5.1 million votes cast this year, he said.

In 2002, the SRP won about 17 percent of the vote.

Despite his party’s gains, Sam Rainsy had tough words about the electoral process.

“Voter turnout plummeted last Sunday as a result of administrative harassment and political discrimination through manipulation of voter lists over the last eight mon­ths,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“Without the organized confusion on voting day, there would have been an additional 1.7 million actual voters…. The election result would have been completely different,” he added.

Election monitors said that some polling stations around the country were bogged down by technical difficulties, largely because voters had problems finding their names on voting lists.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections released preliminary results from 713 communes in 24 provinces Monday. The CPP won 694 chief positions, the SRP 17 and Funcinpec two, according to Com­frel’s figures. Comfrel said it was still waiting for results from a further 908 communes.

At a press conference in Phnom Penh on Monday, Comfrel monitoring coordinator Mar Sophal ex­pressed concerns that turnout was low because registered voters lack­ed mandatory identification documents with which to vote, or were turned away at the polls because of mistakes in their personal information on the voting list.

Some local officials violated procedures related to voter identification or showed bias toward supporters of particular political parties, Mar Sophal said.

It is too early to say how many registered voters who attempted to cast ballots Sunday were unable to, he said. The number of invalid ballots cast has not yet been calculated, he added.

Mar Sophal said that the low percentage of turnout may also reflect problems in the voting list, which Comfrel believes has been inflated by double registrations and ghost voters. “Ghost voters” refers to names that appear on voting lists of people who do not live in the commune, have died, or simply do not exist.

Comfrel said in November that it found a ghost voter rate of 10 percent in the 2005 list of registered voters. More recent figures have not yet been calculated.

Mar Sophal said that Comfrel will “research the quality of the voting list” in coming weeks.

Tep Nytha said the election body has received no reports of registered voters being denied the right to cast a ballot.

“We helped voters find their name and vote,” he said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the election results would not have been altered by a larger voter turnout.

“If more people turned out, the CPP would win more,” he said, adding that losing parties always criticize the winners.

But, he added, the NEC should make sure that turnout is not so low in the future. In some cases, the NEC did not make necessary changes to the personal information of voters, Cheam Yeap said.

“I will ask the NEC to try harder,” he said. (Reporting by Elizabeth Tomei, Lor Chandara, Pin Sisovann and Kim Chan.)

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