78% participation in “gentle” municipal elections: NEC

Communal council elections on June 5 ended with a turnout of 77.91 percent, with observers and party officials noting that voting was uneventful at polling stations across the country.

However, some party leaders have expressed concern that the doors of election offices were closed during the count, preventing the public from witnessing the process – an issue which was dismissed by officials of the National Elections Committee (NEC ) as a non-issue.

The NEC said the 5th term communal elections ‘went smoothly and without violence’, and announced they recorded a turnout of 77.91%, with more than seven of the nine million eligible voters casting their ballots. between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The committee said Kep was the province with the highest turnout at 87.25% of all registered voters, followed by Kandal at 85.46% and Svay Rieng at 85.09%. Meanwhile, Banteay Meanchey recorded the lowest voter turnout of any province at 67.49%.

Speaking at a press conference after the polls closed, NEC Chairman Prach Chan said he thought the national turnout was high, noting that the number was slightly affected by the “problems weather” and the inability of overseas Cambodians to vote. “Looking at some other countries around the world, that turnout is relatively high,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen cast his ballot in the 2022 communal council elections in Takhmao city, Kandal province on June 5. Heng Chivoan

Chan said the preliminary election results will be announced from 6 p.m. on June 6 until noon on June 7, while the official result will be announced on June 26.

By the evening of June 5, no overall election results had been announced.

Son Chhay, vice-president of the Candlelight Party – the second-largest with candidates running across the country – said he was concerned about reports that some polling stations had closed during the vote count.

He said such a practice made the process opaque and was contrary to the NEC’s own rules, which allow the public to watch the count from a minimum distance of 15 yards.

The NEC chairman refuted Chhay’s citation of the rules, saying gates can be closed while the ballots are being counted, with political operatives and observers allowed into the station to witness the process.

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On June 5, National Election Committee (NEC) officials begin counting ballots for the communal council elections at Bun Rany Hun Sen High School in Koh Dach Township, Chroy Changvar District. Hong Menea

“There is probably no other election more transparent than the one in Cambodia, where we count the votes directly at the polling station,” Chan said. “We can all see the election results right away. No one can hide the results and no one can fake them. The results are displayed and pictures can be taken… So, [the results and process] are sufficiently transparent.

When asked if the elections were free, fair and democratic, Chan replied, “If people say the elections are undemocratic, I wouldn’t understand their logic. Normally, if there are at least two parties, we can say [the election process] is democratic. But the number of votes for each party will depend on the will of the voters who made the decision.

“The NEC did their best to make the election fair and just,” he said.

NEC General Secretary Tep Nytha said more than 30 polling stations in seven provinces had been relocated due to incidents such as weather conditions and poor construction. An electoral office in Kampong Cham province has been moved 4 km from the original site, after it collapsed into the nearby river.

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A security officer directs voters to a polling station for the Tuol Kork High School Communal Council elections in the capital’s Tuol Kork district on June 5. Hong Menea

Mork Sopharith, head of the polling station at Bun Rany Hun Sen Prek Thmey secondary school in the capital’s Chbar Ampov district, said voter turnout was as high as in the last elections and passed without no incidents.

He said at one office, up to 50% of voters had already cast their ballots by 10 a.m.

“Before election day, we had already distributed information cards and posted announcements. So when they came, they wrote down their number and double-checked it when they voted.

“Election officials helped them find their names and they were able to vote quickly. In general, Cambodians now understand a lot about elections,” he said, adding that only a few had run for the wrong post because they had not confirmed it at the election. ‘advance.

Sin Channy, a Cambodian Women for Peace and Development (CWPD) observer, said she saw voters usually spend “less than 10 minutes” casting their ballot because they already knew the required information, having received help from staff of civil society. organizations present in the polling stations.

“The voters came of their own free will; no one had forced them. There was no protest, argument or violence,” she said.

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Voters casting their ballots in the 5th term communal council elections at a pagoda in Meanchey district in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Vann Veth, a resident of Prek Thmey commune, said he had “fulfilled his civic duty” by voting to elect leaders he believed would serve the public interest.

“It seems that the preparations this time around have been much better than previous elections,” he said. “In the past, when we came to vote, we had to queue in the hot sun. But now, as long as we know our station number, we can just vote after the official checks our document.

He said that whichever party wins the elections, they should respect the people’s demand for further development of their villages and townships, especially on transport and education infrastructure, as well as improving the provision of public services.

He said he believed Cambodians wanted to avoid seeing politicians “begging” for votes only during the election season, who would otherwise turn their backs on voters.

“If the commune chiefs are doing a good job, then we should vote for them, regardless of their party,” he said.

Joan D. Boling