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Cablegate: Cambodia's Commune Elections: Cpp Winning Amid

VZCZCXRO1575
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0496/01 0921116
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 021116Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8268
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000496

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS
SINGAPORE PLEASE PASS TO DAS ERIC JOHN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA'S COMMUNE ELECTIONS: CPP WINNING AMID
LOWER VOTER TURNOUT


1. (SBU) Summary. Based on preliminary reports from the
April 1 commune elections, the ruling party of Prime Minister
Hun Sen has won a majority of the nation's 1,621 communes,
with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) coming in a clear
second. It appears that most of the FUNCINPEC votes went to
the SRP, with both FUNCINPEC and the Norodom Ranariddh Party
(NRP) gaining only a small number of the overall seats.
Turnout among registered voters appears to have dropped
significantly since the 2002 and 2003 elections; the National
Election Committee (NEC) estimated 70 percent turnout while
other sources place it lower. Electoral complaints during
the pre-election period reportedly have dropped since 2002,
although most sources indicate that there were
irregularities. Inability to find one's name on the voter
lists and to figure out the right polling station continued
to be a limited, but regular, complaint and one that the UNDP
had hoped would be rectified during the 2007 balloting. Even
before the polls closed on April 1, political parties were
looking to the national elections in 2008. A report of the
direct observations of Embassy's 42 teams of observers will
be sent septel. End Summary.

Election Day 2007: CPP Wins, Sam Rainsy the Clear Number Two
--------------------------------------------- ----------------

2. (U) Although the results will not be official until
April 24, preliminary results from the NEC and the parties
indicate that the ruling Cambodian People's party (CPP) of
Prime Minister Hun Sen has won a clear majority of the
nation's 1,621 communes, with the CPP estimating that they
will hold the commune chief position in 1,590 or more
communes. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) will receive
27-29 communes, FUNCINPEC perhaps two communes, and none
likely for the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). CPP senior
official Tep Ngorn told us that -- based on CPP information
-- CPP will take over 7,000 of the more than 11,000 commune
council seats, SRP will be get over 2,300 and FUNCINPEC and
NRP will get less than 400 seats each.

3. (U) SRP Secretary General Mu Sochua agreed with Tep
Ngorn's prediction, but cited many irregularities in the
April 1 electoral contest. While noting that intimidation
was less than in previous elections, Mu Sochua nevertheless
said that the elections had been marred by vote-buying and
overly complicated NEC procedures. The SRP official also
noted that a grenade had gone off near the home of one of the
SRP candidates in Kampong Chhnang province. She said that
the SRP will request the NEC to reorganize balloting in two
areas where the alleged irregularities may have undermined
the outcome of the vote. Noting that the SRP appears to have
lost 3 of its 6 Phnom Penh communes, Mu Sochua said that the
SRP has won in as many as 27-29 communes -- an increase from
the 13 won in 2002. In addition, the strong support for SRP
overall means that the opposition party will have
representation in more than 90 percent of all the communes.
In 2002, the SRP had 11 percent of the total vote; this time
SRP will get an estimated 26 percent.

4. (U) Ranariddh's party spokesperson blamed the party's
poor performance on Prince Ranariddh being out of the
country, the party's inexperience and the dispute between
FUNCINPEC and the NRP that confused voters. The NRP noted
irregularities associated with the polling as well, citing
alleged cases in Kampong Cham province where some commune
chiefs collected voters' ID information and only made it
available to those who voted for the ruling party.

Low Voter Turnout
-----------------

5. (SBU) All the parties and organizations whom the Embassy
contacted noted the low voter turnout as compared with 2002
and 2003, where the turnout among registered voters was 80
percent or more. The CPP indicated that the lower turnout
could reflect voter apathy. Another possibility was that the
polling day fell too close to the Cambodian New Year, and
many workers would be unwilling to use their holiday time and
transport money to travel to their home provinces twice
within a two-week period. Most of the garment factories in
Phnom Penh were closed on April 1, but it is unclear if the
majority of garment workers took advantage to go to the
polls, as many are not registered in Phnom Penh. In Poipet,
the casino management only decided on April 1 after the
polling had already begun to allow their workers to go vote;
many lived too far from Poipet to return quickly and
therefore could not vote.

6. (U) In general and throughout the country, voters

PHNOM PENH 00000496 002 OF 002


flocked to the polls early in the morning and many were in
lines outside Phnom Penh voting stations well before the 0700
opening time. Most voters wanted to cast their ballots early
and go on to work or the market, and not have to stand in
line during the heat of the day. By late morning, the number
of voters coming to the polls had dwindled to little more
than a sporadic trickle. There were no reports of voters
still queued at 1500, when the polls officially closed. By
Cambodian law, anyone still in line at 1500 who had not cast
a ballot would have been allowed to vote.

7. (SBU) Both the CPP and SRP have noted that the political
landscape in Cambodia has changed, as reflected in the 2007balloting. Whereas
in 2002 and 2003 there were essentially
three political parties (CPP, FUNCINPEC, SRP) competing for
power, now there are only two -- the CPP and SRP. FUNCINPEC
has largely been destroyed, with many of its voters being
picked up by the SRP. Following the closing of the polls on
April 1, Pol/Econ Chief spoke with Mu Sochua, who indicated
that Rainsy is keeping his lines of communication open to
both Ranariddh and Kem Sokha as the SRP leader believes that
he can mount an effective campaign against the CPP if other
opposition figures join him. Meanwhile, Kem Sokha has told
us that he plans to submit his party accreditation to the
Ministry of Interior in May following his resignation from
the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR). He is
tentatively planning a congress for July and at this stage,
appears uninterested in an alliance with Rainsy. Kem Sokha
attributed the lower voter turnout to the public's
disillusionment with the political choices available.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) Although the voter turnout is less than in
previous elections, 60-70 percent overall turnout remains
impressive and all agree that the election was marred by less
violence and intimidation than in the past. However, there
remain problems with irregularities, purposeful or
accidental, that the NEC remains unwilling or unable to
address. These include the confusion over voters lists and
polling stations, as well as the presence of unauthorized
local authorities in the polling sites in many areas of the
country. We agree that the political landscape has evolved
into what more closely approximates a two-party system.
FUNCINPEC and the NRP will need to do some serious thinking
about their respective political futures, and decide whether
it's better to join with one of the two main parties or be
relegated to the category that includes the many "small"
political parties receiving little to no public attention.
End Comment.


MUSSOMELI

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