Siem Reap residents were not surprised by the landslide victory claimed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in last month’s general election, but many here said they doubted the veracity of the reported turnout figures.
Nationwide, the National Election Committee (NEC) reported more than 82 percent of the electorate turned out to vote on July 29, with the figure for Siem Reap, traditionally a strong base of opposition support, reportedly 73 percent.
The high turnout figures came amid a boycott campaign led by a former opposition party president and reports of a campaign of voter intimidation during the campaign and on election day. Some 7 percent of Siem Reap residents spoiled their ballots, according to the NEC figures.
Ros Keo, a tuk tuk driver, is one of many Siem Reap residents VOA spoke to who questioned the high turnout figures.
“We can see in the previous mandate, voter turnout was half as much as this mandate. Back then, there were still crowds [at polling stations] at around 1 or 2 pm, but this year, there was almost no one at 9 or 10 am,” he said. “Look at the last commune council election, citizens were excited to vote but during the election this Sunday, they were not interested in it and it was like there was no election at all.”
Keo is not alone in wondering why there appeared to be such a huge discrepancy between the number of people seen attending polling stations and the figures released by the NEC.
Bun Ly, a tour guide in Siem Reap, said that while the CPP’s victory was expected, questions remained about how the polling data was tallied.
“Well, I was not surprised with the ruling party’s victory, but the voter turnout figures is a surprise for me. Based on my observations, it was not as much.”
Sann Ny, another Siep Reap resident agreed.
“So, as the other citizens and I observed, we were all amazed after the NEC announced the primary results of the vote. The election this time seemed more quiet.”
Khun Savoeun, president of the Grassroots Democratic Party in Siem Reap, said that it was hard to accept both the result and the vote counting process.
“We all can see that those who went to vote were not as many as the results that they announced. I drove around and saw that it was not 78 percent, that is why I was surprised.”
Sok Eysan, CPP spokesman, said that national and international observers had been on hand to monitor the proceedings and ensure protocol was adhered to.
“What’s important is the number of voters was made based on the ballots in the ballot box,” he said.
San Rainsy, the former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party president who called for the election boycott, told the Hello VOA programme on Wednesday that he did not believe the figures to be accurate.
Nim Vansam, NEC director in Siem Reap, said the results “cannot be faked or exaggerated”.
Meas Nee, a political analyst, said the results were “a bit hard to trust.”
“It doesn’t mean that the NEC is not independent but it means that we lost reliable independent observers. That’s why the result was a bit hard to swallow.”