The NEC’s view of the 2023 commune and national elections

Cambodia has just concluded its 2022 communal elections with the publication of the official result by the National Election Committee (NEC), which saw the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) dominate the poll with only nine parties out of 17 winning seats. communal.

Yesterday, in an exclusive interview with Khmer Times, NEC Spokesperson Hang Puthea talked about the communal elections and what the NEC is doing to prepare for the 2023 national elections.

Most Successful Election

Puthea described this year’s communal election as “the most successful of its kind”.

“It demonstrated a significant improvement and progression of Cambodian democracy,” he said.

The benchmark, Puthea said, was voter turnout.

“Of the 9.2 million people registered, 7.3 million came to vote. It reflects a huge increase in people’s political participation and a great show of citizen accountability in a democratic nation,” he said.

The NEC spent more than $60 million on this year’s local election, sourcing advanced software and advanced technology from overseas for use in the election process, resulting in less work complicated and less tedious, said Puthea.

“This year, we also did not encounter any anti-election campaign from the opposition movement, like the Clean Finger campaign in previous elections,” he said. “The opposition must have realized that such steps had come to nothing. People don’t pay attention to that stuff anymore.

Puthea added that the exiled politicians, a reference to former court-dissolved CNRP chairman Sam Rainsy and his supporters, tried to stir up trouble during the election with their ‘rhetoric’, but were unsuccessful. .

“The filing of so many complaints demonstrates the maturity of political parties in Cambodian democracy.

“NEC’s ability to solve them all has also shown great improvement in our ability to handle the job.”

“In the end, more than 80% of voters came to vote,” he said.

The NEC received 245 complaints from all parties, before and after the elections. Puthea claimed they were all resolved on June 20.

The NEC released the result of the sub-national elections on Sunday which was contested by 17 parties, with the CPP winning 9,376 seats – 1,648 commune chiefs, 1,618 first deputies and 261 second deputies.

The second leading party was the Candlelight Party (CP) with 2,198 council seats – four commune leaders, 25 first deputy positions and 1,360 second deputy positions.

Seven parties also won seats, but far fewer than contested.

Puthea claimed that all parties and stakeholders accepted the results, including parties that did not win any seats.

“Their acceptance showed respect for the will of the people, as well as confidence in the NEC as the organizer of the election,” he said. “We can say that the election was free and fair at all stages and procedures.”

“In the meantime, a party dominating the poll shows nothing but the will of the people. As for concerns about the accuracy of the results, the issue is being raised all over the world and it exists even in the country that describes itself as the father of democracy,” he said referring to the United States.

Challenges and lessons

The municipal election marked the first time that NEC used IT solutions for the electoral process, which facilitated the transfer of data and information and improved the accuracy of results.

Puthea, however, said advanced technology was not enough in areas without a stable internet connection.

“NEC does not have its own Internet access; we have to buy it from a private company,” he said. “In some remote areas, the internet connection was so weak that it caused delays in submitting count data.”

Mother Nature also tried to worry the polls with rain, flooding and landslides, but NEC was well prepared.

“When 22 polling stations were affected by these incidents, we immediately relocated the polling stations so that the poll would not be disrupted,” he said.

Covid-19, despite Cambodia’s success in immunizing its population, was also a concern, with NEC imposing preventive measures, such as social distancing and the provision of hand sanitizers.

Preparations 2023

Puthea sees the 2022 communal election as a test before next year’s national election, in which Cambodians have the power to elect their representative to the National Assembly, and NEC passed the test with flying colors.

“NEC handled the communal election with experience and NEC showed they have all the necessary resources,” Puthea said. “We will prepare a report to be presented at an upcoming conference, and representatives of parties and observer organizations will be invited to give their views and comments.”

“All contributions will be considered ahead of national elections next year.”

For now, NEC plans to improve data transfer speed and reduce result announcement time.

“NEC is doing all the work, and the only thing people have to do is make sure their names are on the voters list and vote on that important day,” he said.

Joan D. Boling