Report Shows Election Irregularities Favored CPP

In areas where electoral irregularities were the most pronounced during July’s national election, the ruling CPP saw a significant increase in its share of votes compared to that of the opposition CNRP, according to a report compiled by a coalition of human rights NGOs known as the Electoral Reform Alliance (ERA).

The Joint Report on the Conduct of the 2013 Cambodian Elections, which is the most comprehensive analysis yet of the irregularities that occurred during the disputed vote, shows that in areas where over-registration and the use of temporary identification documents were most widespread, the CPP saw a significant rise in its success at the polls.

“Interestingly, in several high-stakes provinces, when voter turnout was consistent with the national average in a polling station, CNRP won, but in polling stations with extraordinarily large turnout, CPP won,” the report says, noting that the CPP won the election by about 300,000 total votes out of 6.6 million cast.

The number of voters in some communes was significantly higher than the most recent estimates of the eligible voter population there, according to data collected by local rights group Licadho. This phenomenon occurred most often in Kandal province, with communes in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kratie provinces reporting up to 120 percent turnout at polling stations.

An accompanying chart from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) shows that when voter turnout was between 70 and 80 percent, the CPP won 48 percent of the vote, whereas when turnout was more than 90 percent, the CPP took home 57 percent of the vote.

“In polling stations with turnout well higher than the country’s median, CPP performed above its national average,” the report says.

The CPP also fared particularly well at polling stations where there was an abnormally high use of Identification Certificates for Elections (ICEs), which are issued by commune councils—97 percent of which are controlled by officials loyal to the ruling party.

Based on a representative sample of polling stations nationwide that were observed by Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) on election day, there was a significant correlation between the use of ICEs and the share of votes that went to the CPP.

“Among polling stations observed by TIC, the vote share for the ruling party increased as more ICEs were used in a polling station,” the report says.

A supplementary chart shows that at polling points where between one and 10 ICEs were used, the CPP took home 47.6 percent of the vote, whereas at polling stations where more than 50 ICEs were used, the CPP won 52.9 percent of the vote.

Also among its “unusual findings,” the report notes that at the 209 newly established polling stations throughout the country, the CPP performed remarkably well.

“Newly-established polling stations went to the ruling party nearly 70 percent of the time, well above the nationwide average where the ruling party won 53 percent of the time,” the report says.

Representatives of the ERA, which is composed of 12 election monitors and civil society groups, declined to comment on the report, as it was not supposed to be made public until December 13, according to Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel).

However, an embargoed draft of the report, which had been shared with political parties and interested stakeholders, was posted to the CNRP’s website on Thursday.

Although the document combines data collected by NDI, TIC, Comfrel, the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia  and Licadho, the report cautions that its data are not conclusive due to the failure of the National Election Committee (NEC) to release the necessary documents to properly review the election results.

The report says that even after the NEC’s database was closely analyzed, at least 8.8 percent of the country’s 9.68 million eligible voters could not be found on official voter lists, leading to thousands of people being unable to cast their ballots on voting day.

“While those persons could have been deleted from the forms by mistake, the number merits investigation to determine whether there were instances where officials deliberately excluded eligible voters to gain political advantage for the official’s own political party,” the report says.

Researchers for Licadho found more than 260,000 instances of duplicate names on voter rolls. Forty-four percent of the time, duplicate names were found in the same province, while about 20 percent of the time they were in the same commune, allowing for the possibility of multiple voting.

“Duplicates, like invalid names, present the possibility for fraudulent voting. Duplicate names can be used by other, non-eligible people, allow a person to vote more than once, or be used as a cover for ballot box stuffing,” the report says.

The report is highly critical of the NEC’s handling of ICEs, which replaced 1018 forms as the documentation for voters who have lost their actual identity cards. ICEs, according to the report, were part of reforms following the 2008 national election aimed specifically at increasing transparency in election management.

“The spirit of these reforms, however, has been ignored in 2013 as the NEC and council have not allowed independent organizations, despite repeated requests, to monitor ICE distribution process or view the ICE documentation at councils,” the report says, estimating the number of ICEs in circulation during the election at 1.8 million.

There was also vast and unexplained variation in the distribution of ICEs, with the percentage of voters who used ICEs in some provinces, including Prey Veng, was as high as 18 percent, while the percentage of voters using ICEs in other provinces, including Banteay Meanchey, was less than 2 percent.

“This undermines accountability and public confidence in elections,” the ERA report says.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC, said that the CNRP’s improved showing in the 2013 election was, in itself, evidence that the ballot was not biased in favor of the CPP.

“The CPP went from 90 seats to only 68 seats, and now what is the number of seats the CNRP received?” Mr. Nytha said, adding, “I don’t want to comment on political issues.”

The CNRP won 55 seats according to the NEC’s official results, up from the 29 seats previously held by the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party before the opposition merger. Nonetheless, the opposition has pledged to boycott the National Assembly until the CPP agrees to a transparent investigation of the election.

Regarding the specific figures in the ERA report, Mr. Nytha said that the NEC had actually found 301,000 duplicate names and has already requested that local authorities remove them from voter lists.

Although the ERA report notes that the NEC has continually refused to give definitive figures on how many ICEs were issued, Mr. Nytha said that the figure of 1.8 million in the report is grossly inflated.

“The NEC issued only 460,000 ICEs in 2012 and another 270,000 ICEs for this year’s election,” Mr. Nytha said, which would put the total number of ICEs at 730,000.

Asked whether the NEC would work to ensure that irregularities would not be repeated in future elections, Mr. Nytha said, “The NEC will just implement the laws that take effect.”

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