siem reap town – The provincial chief of a top watchdog has blasted Sunday’s polls here a “joke,” saying widespread intimidation and possible fraud in at least one district has rendered a “20 percent free and fair election.”
The allegation comes in the wake of a stunning victory for the CPP. Preliminary voting numbers, according to CPP and Funcinpec officials, stand at about 135,000 for the CPP, about 69,000 for Funcinpec and roughly 43,000 for the Sam Rainsy Party.
But Meas Thun Chey, Siem Reap chief of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Tuesday that 52 ballot boxes at four counting centers in Angkor Chum district, north of Siem Reap town, may have been tampered with overnight Monday after observers went home.
According to Funcinpec and CPP officials, the CPP should earn three seats in the National Assembly, while Funcinpec wins two and the Sam Rainsy Party gets one.
In the UN-administered 1993 election, Funcinpec won three seats here, the CPP won two and the former Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party one. Sunday’s turnaround for the CPP amounts to tens of thousands of votes.
After the first count Monday, observers had conflicting totals, necessitating a recount Tuesday. The recount resulted in different totals, and Comfrel believes it reflects overnight tampering in favor of the CPP.
In addition, local CPP chiefs and police were allowed into polling stations during voting, resulting in voter intimidation, Meas Thun Chey said. Some local chiefs even wore the blue arm bands for plainclothes election security officers, he claimed.
“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “This wasn’t an election, this was a joke.”
The Sam Rainsy Party will not recognize the results of the election here, Mean Sothavarin, a top provincial party official, said Tuesday. Princess Norodom Vacheara, Funcinpec’s top candidate for National Assembly, said her party would boycott the results if it does not win at least two seats. Both Mean Sothavarin and Princess Vacheara alleged widespread CPP intimidation.
Buth Kary, head of the provincial election commission, said overnight ballot tampering was impossible. Party and NGO observers signed off on all commune-level vote tallies, he said.
Soun Loun, the CPP provincial chief, said the process was free of intimidation. He chalked up the victory to working hard and gaining back the trust of the people.
“I know that not everybody likes the CPP, but some people here are beginning to trust us,” he said.
The CPP has also had to climb out from under the long shadow of King Norodom Sihanouk—a presence that has benefited Funcinpec, Soun Loun said.
The CPP made an effort to shed its old communist image and appeal to the younger generation this time around, he said.