“Opinion” published in The Cambodia Daily - Monday, June 11, 2012
CAMBODIA’S PEACEFUL AND CROOKED COMMUNE ELECTIONS
VIOLENCE GIVES WAY TO DISENFRANCHISEMENT, IMPERSONATION IN JUNE 3 POLL
By Mu Sochua
More sophisticated election manipulation techniques meant the ruling
Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) could afford to reduce the level of
political violence, while ensuring victory before voting day even
arrived. These techniques, used on an unprecedented scale in June 3
commune elections, are disenfranchisement, to reduce votes for the
opposition, and impersonation, to inflate votes for the ruling party.
The tools used are non-existent ghost voters and fraudulent voter
identification documents. The elections were even more unreal as voter
turnout dropped from more than 80% previously to a historic low of
Yet, the CPP was unable to prevent a shift in the balance of power in
favor of the democratic opposition represented by the Sam Rainsy Party
(SRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP). This resulted from the
collapse of CPP’s two docile “royalist” allies: Funcinpec (FUN) and
the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP).
Compared with results from previous local elections in 2007, the CPP
and its two allies lost 295 commune councilor positions to the two
democratic opposition parties. The latter now control at least 125
communes compared with 28 in 2007. This is based on the composition of
commune councils where the combined opposition controls a majority of
votes, regardless of the political affiliation of the commune chief.
With 3.64 million votes, the CPP increased its share of the popular
vote from 58.1 percent at the last national assembly elections in
2008, to 62 percent. This resulted mainly from voter impersonation on
an unprecedented scale. In the absence of impersonation, ballot
tampering, intimidation and vote buying, the CPP would have hit a
ceiling at about 2.5 million votes, or 40 percent, similar to what
they obtained at the U.N.-organized national assembly elections in
The SRP, with 1.22 million votes, saw a marginal decrease in its share
from 21.9 percent to 20.8 percent. The performance was resilient given
the absence of founding president Sam Rainsy, who has been in unjust,
forced exile for nearly three years. Furthermore, SRP voters have
borne the brunt of the disenfranchisement campaign affecting 1.5
million legitimate voters, according to independent observers.
With 574,000 votes, the HRP significantly increased its share from 6.6
percent to 9.8 percent, from a relatively low base. It performed
particularly well in some provinces around Phnom Penh.
The CPP allies, FUN and the NRP, scored 396,000 votes, a sharp drop
from 10.7 percent to 6.7 percent.
Counting the fraudulent votes with the real ones, the government
bloc’s share of the popular vote was roughly stable at 68.7 percent.
The SRP and HRP democratic opposition increased its share from 28.5
percent to 30.6 percent. But without the disenfranchisement and
impersonation decried by all independent observers, the democratic
opposition would probably have won more than 50 percent of the popular
This goal will be achieved at the next national elections scheduled
for July 28, 2013, provided the CPP-controlled National Election
Committee is reformed in line with recommendations from independent
national and international election observers.
Mu Sochua is a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker