CPP big winner in local seat reallocation

A woman casts her vote at a polling station during the commune elections in June in Phnom Penh.
A woman casts her vote at a polling station during the commune elections in June in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party will now hold over 95 percent of seats at the commune level following the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party last month, according to figures released on Friday by the National Election Committee (NEC).

The Supreme Court’s November 16 decision to dissolve the party and ban its officials was widely condemned both internationally and locally as a power grab by the CPP, and will be felt acutely at the local level.

Of the CNRP’s 5,007 seats the CPP will now claim 4,548, with 239 positions going to Funcinpec, 201 to the Khmer National United Party and 10 to the Cambodian Nationality Party. Three were distributed to the Cambodian Youth Party, which – along with Funcinpec – filed the initial complaints to dissolve the CNRP. The remaining three seats will be determined by drawing lots.

In nationwide local elections just six months ago, the CNRP won more than one-third of the country’s communes – an unprecedented showing for any opposition party – and more than 43 percent of commune council positions.

Thanks to the redistribution, the CPP will soon hold 11,051 seats, a staggering 95.5 percent. None of the other parties accepting CNRP seats were able to muster enough support to win any communes – with the exception of the KNUP, which won one.

A senior NEC official, who requested anonymity due to the electoral body’s press policy, said the NEC would send the new list of seats by party to the Interior Ministry on December 11 or 12, so long as no party eligible in the commune elections, excluding the CNRP, files a complaint.

After seeing his party’s seat total increase from 28 to 267, Funcinpec party spokesman Nheb Bun Chin said he was satisfied. He added that he expected to receive mostly first or second deputy chief positions.

A review by The Post of the Kingdom’s hastily amended election laws suggests that the CPP will hold the commune chief spot in every commune in the country, save the one taken by the KNUP in June.

Ear Sophal, associate professor of diplomacy at Occidental College, condemned the redistribution in an email, lamenting that “everyone just wasted their time going to vote”.

Amending a quote attributed to Stalin, Sophal called Cambodia’s elections meaningless. “Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide nothing. Those who reallocate the votes six months after the election decide everything,” he said.

Political analyst Ou Virak, meanwhile, called for the structure of commune councils to change by making them entirely nonpartisan, while Ali Al-Nasani, country director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, said the seats should be allocated democratically. “Instead of redistributing mandates to other parties it would have been more appropriate to conduct new elections,” he said.

According to separate numbers published on Friday, the CPP also received 78 of the CNRP’s 86 provincial council seats, with Funcinpec taking the remainder. All but 40 of the CNRP’s 679 town and district council seats will also go to the CPP, with the remainder 40 again going to Funcinpec.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in an email that the redistribution was further evidence of a CPP power grab.

“These new seat totals clearly reveal this whole exercise for what it is: a looting of democracy, with the CPP seizing the spoils of the illegitimate dissolution of the CNRP and distributing a few spare seats here and there for its accomplices,” he said.