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Cablegate: Cambodia Election: Peaceful, Orderly

VZCZCXRO7285
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0611 2100147
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 280147Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0101
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000611

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, P, D, INR, SES-O
NSC FOR L. PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PINR CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA ELECTION: PEACEFUL, ORDERLY

REF: PHNOM PENH 602

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) The national election to choose Cambodia's next
National Assembly came to a peaceful close July 27 as most of
its 15,255 polling stations wrapped up ballot counting in the
evening. Overall, the atmosphere was non-violent and free of
threats, with many Cambodians boasting participation in their
fifth major election since 1993. Embassy's 47 poll-watching
teams in 18 provinces reported no major incidents directly
related to the voting process, although some technical errors
from the 2007 commune elections persisted. Embassy officers
and local staff canvassed national poll observers NICFEC and
COMFREL and representatives of all 11 contesting parties at
the end of the day, who similarly reported no major incidents
based on early reports from the field. Turnout appeared to
be slightly higher than in the Commune Council elections --
in the 65 - 75 percent range.

2. (SBU) Two Sam Rainsy candidates from Kandal province
were detained the night of July 26, but released early in the
morning of polling day in a matter of hours and without
incident. SRP party headquarters sources could not clarify
the nature of the precipitating incidents. Khim Laky, the
number two Sam Rainsy Party candidate standing in Kandal
province, was invited by Military Police to visit a local
Commune Election Committee (CEC) office on the afternoon of
July 27 to discuss his taking a photograph of a village chief
standing inside a voting area. Khim Laky later told us he
quickly resolved the problem with the CEC and went on his
way. According to the Election Law, taking photographs
inside the voting area is prohibited, and officials are also
prohibited from remaining in proximity of the voting area
after they have cast their vote. The village chief who had
remained in the voting area departed. (NOTE: Most village
chiefs in Cambodia are aligned with the ruling CPP party. END
NOTE.)

3. (SBU) After making a concerted effort to accurately
register more than eight million voters, the National
Election Committee (NEC) continued to struggle with providing
accurate information to voters about their polling stations.
In areas such as Phnom Penh where the distribution of Voter
Information Notices (VIN) was below-average and voter
mobility was high (reftel) the problem was most acute, with
at least 5-10 percent of those Phnom Penh voters who went to
the polls apparently not being able to find their names at
polling stations and thus failing to vote. One senior CPP
official said that even workers at the CPP headquarters could
not locate their polling stations. The issuance of 1018
forms to substitute for identification was also high in some
areas of the country and on occasion multiple voters having
the same VIN were allowed to vote or a second person with the
same VIN disenfranchised from voting. It is too early to say
how extensive the problems with identification are or whether
they could have any impact on the final results.

4. (SBU) Cambodians returned home at the end of election
day with a business-as-usual attitude, showing that most have
become accustomed to the voting process. Many are now
patiently awaiting the unofficial results, which could be
released as early as July 28. Official results determining
apportionment of the 123 National Assembly seats could be
issued anytime between August 9 and September 7, depending on
the scope and extent of complaints filed with the NEC and
finally adjudicated in the Constitutional Council.
MUSSOMELI

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