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Cablegate: Observations From Embassy Staff: Polling Station

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PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0626/01 2121359
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301359Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 0102
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000626

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, P, D
NSC FOR L, PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM EAID CB
SUBJECT: OBSERVATIONS FROM EMBASSY STAFF: POLLING STATION
OFFICIALS AND VOTERS MANAGE NICELY -- PROUD, COMPETENT, AND
FAIR

1. (SBU) Summary: Forty-seven Embassy teams observed the
July 27 elections in 18 provinces and found above-average
professional behavior from the more than 15,000 PSCs (Polling
Station Commissions) in the country. PSC staff were
generally seen as timely, competent, evenhanded, and
impartial in their many duties and responsibilities
(everything from checking voter identities to distinguishing
between valid and invalid ballots at the end of the day).

2. (SBU) Embassy staff were also quick to note that the
voting atmosphere was calm, if a bit chaotic among the many
eager voters. Polling stations were largely free of
political propaganda and security was good. Although
problems remained in some districts and polling stations, the
vast majority of Cambodians who went to vote and cast their
ballot on election day came away with a sense of
satisfaction. End Summary.

THE PSC: ALL IN A DAY'S WORK
----------------------------

3. (SBU) Observation teams were pleasantly surprised by the
level of collegiality and pride polling station workers
displayed as they tried their best to ensure the integrity of
the democratic process. Although not representative of all
election officials, a majority of PSCs demonstrated great
dedication to their work. One American observer recounted
the story of how polling station workers placed particular
care in helping one elderly lady through each step of the
voting process in Takeo province. Not only were the polling
officials patient with the elderly voter who had impaired
vision and hearing, but they also averted their eyes from the
lady,s ballot as she mistakenly revealed her ballot after
voting in the booth.

4. (SBU) Another observation team on the opposite side of the
country in the province of Banteay Meanchey witnessed the
high level of organization and communication between the PSC
and the CEC (Commune Election Commission) as officials
collaborated to help one voter successfully find her correct
polling station. Much like the rural provincial
observations, Embassy staff in Phnom Penh also noticed how
the PSC maintained courteous and professional behavior
throughout the long day.

5. (SBU) Although they could not provide answers to voters
failing to find their names on posted registration lists, the
staff patiently explained where voters could look elsewhere
and were generally calm and consoling in demeanor. In fact,
it is a testimony to polling site officials' professionalism
that there were no reported incidents of unruly crowds
related to this problem in Phnom Penh. Although observers
reported numerous dissatisfied would-be-voters congregating
at some of the larger sites, trying to find their names on
lists, officials' actions coupled with an apparent effort by
voters themselves to maintain calm averted frictions.

ALL QUIET ON THE RURAL FRONT
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Despite isolated and understandable cases of
agitation expressed by upset voters, the atmosphere
surrounding the 2008 National Parliamentary Elections this
past weekend was peaceful both before and after preliminary
results were publicized.

7. (SBU) While most PSCs displayed restraint in showing any
type of emotion, U.S. observers also found that polling
station staff were not immune to a little light-hearted
humor. One observation team in the rural province of Kampong
Speu noted that election officials and domestic observers had
a good laugh during the ballot-counting process when one
ballot was shown to have been marked by a large smiley face.
After the laugh, the ballot was properly marked as invalid,
as were other "protest ballots."

8. (SBU) Most American observation teams noted how Cambodians
were visibly excited about voting as soon as the polling
stations were open and were visibly proud once they dipped
their right index finger into the indelible ink as evidence
of their participation. Even more encouraging were the
accounts of peaceful celebrations and reflections immediately
after the preliminary results were televised from all parties
of the political spectrum. As of July 29, it seems that most
rural Cambodians accepted either victory or defeat at the

PHNOM PENH 00000626 002 OF 002


polling station with a reserved demeanor. Time will tell if
urban voters follow suit.
MUSSOMELI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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