Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Councilors Cast Votes in Senate Election

NEC officials count ballots in the Senate election at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
NEC officials count ballots in the Senate election at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

This page will be updated throughout the day with information about the Senate election.

On Sunday morning, commune councilors and members of the National Assembly voted in the 2024 Senate election. The electorate is voting at 33 polling stations across the country, open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Candidates from four parties are represented on the ballots: the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, the Funcinpec Party, the Khmer Will Party and the Nation Power Party.

In this year’s Senate election, 11,622 councilor members and 125 members of the National Assembly are eligible to vote. They are selecting 58 seats out of 62 total senators. Two additional senators are appointed by King Norodom Sihamoni and another two senators are appointed by the National Assembly.

In the 2022 commune election, 9,376 councilor members from the ruling CPP were elected while the Candlelight Party won 2,198 seats. The Funcinpec Party won 19 seats and the remaining seats went to other minor parties, according to 2022 commune election results

In May 2023 the Constitutional Council ruled that the Candlelight Party was disqualified from running in elections because it had not provided an original copy of its 1998 registration document. Candlelight leaders have claimed the registration document was lost when authorities raided the party’s headquarters in 2017. The ruling CPP then had a sweeping victory in the July 2023 general election, winning 120 of the 125 for National Assembly seats while Funcinpec received five seats.

The CPP also swept the 2018 Senate election, after the former opposition CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017. Following the dissolution, 55 CNRP lawmakers and 5007 commune councilor seats were redistributed to other parties.

A commune councilor raises his finger after voting in the Senate election at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA)

For the 2024 Senate election, the Candlelight Party selected the Khmer Will Party to direct its votes toward, one of the minor parties that formed an alliance with Candlelight in October.
Former Prime Minister Hun Sen is the first candidate in region three in Kandal province. He has held this National Assembly seat since 1993 Hun Sen stepped down from his position as Prime Minister after 38 years in office following the July election. He is expected to be appointed as Senate president after the Sunday election. 

 Prime Minister Hun Manet votes in the Senate election at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Long Lines and Early Votes

Around 1,000 voters lined up to vote in the hot weather this morning at Preah Sisowath High School polling station. One councilor, a woman in her 60s, fainted and had to be taken to the hospital.

Despite the long lines, NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea, who observed the polling station at Preah Sisowath High School, said the environment was well-organized and authorities were working cooperatively. Around 760 national observers are at polling stations along with 30 international observers from China and Japan and 228 political party observers, he said.

Within the first hour of the election, two polling stations in Mondulkiri and Kep had already closed after all of the votes had been cast and ballots were counted.

Commune councilor Teuk Sokha from Kohdech, who is part of the Candlelight Party, said voting at the polling station went smoothly and there were no issues. 

“I am happy to vote today to fulfill my council duties,” he said. “This is the will of the council.”

Bun Linda, a CPP councilor from Phsar Chas commune, Daun Penh district, Phnom Penh, said she expected that the ruling party she voted for would gain more votes. 

“We have great expectations for their capacity to continue leading,” she said.

Commune councilors line up to vote in the Senate election at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA)

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People Center for Development and Peace, said he expected the Khmer Will Party would be able to win some seats in the Senate Election. The Khmer Will Party has councilors from its own party as well as the Candlelight Party casting votes, increasing its chances of winning seats, he added. He thinks the Funcinpec Party may not have enough votes to win a seat. 

However, although the minority parties may win some seats, he believes the small number of seats they can win will not be very influential in the Senate’s decision-making.

“I do not see any change because, besides the ruling party, [other parties] may not get a lot of votes,” he said. “Non-governmental parties can win less than 10 seats. This means there’s less possibility or potential for policy change, but they may be able to debate in the Senate.” 

Korn Savang, monitoring and advocacy program coordinator at Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), and Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Nicfec), both said they could not provide any comment regarding the Senate election as their organization’s were not registered to observe this election. 

Reports of CPP Attempting to Buy Votes in Kampong Cham

Huy Thanak, deputy commune chief from the Candlelight Party in Tong Rong commune, told CamboJA News on Sunday that before election day, members of the ruling CPP attempted to sway voters, offering money in return for votes.

“They [members of the CPP working group] have contacted us to vote for them, saying they will then give us money,” he said. “A week before election day, they called through the telephone, saying to vote for them.”

Thanak is an incumbent commune councilor, first serving as a member of the Funcinpec Party in 2002, and in 2017 serving as a member of the former opposition CNRP.

“We don’t have enough rights and freedom regarding the political environment because our party isn’t allowed to participate,” he said. “If there is one group, democracy will gradually lose.”

Keav Sokny, another councilor from the Candlelight Party in Russei Srok commune, also reported that members of the CPP had pressured him to vote for the ruling party with promises of payments.

“They [the CPP] have lobbied me to vote for them, saying they will then give me money. I replied that I will vote for my party,” he said, referring to his intention to vote for the Khmer Will Party. 

He said he wanted Cambodians to have the right to express their political opinions, which is guaranteed under the law, adding that there are currently restrictions on freedom of expression in the country. He hopes that the Khmer Will Party will receive some seats.

“We want a multi-party Senate to ensure that democracy works. If there is only a single party, it will have nepotism,” he said.

Commune councilors check their names on a voter list in the Senate election at the Preah Sihanouk High School polling station in Kampong Cham province on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

The Khmer Will Party spokesperson Kimsour Phearith told CamboJA News on Sunday that most of the commune councilors from the opposition were lobbied to vote for the ruling CPP before election day, with some experiencing intimidation such as threats and promises of money in exchange for votes.

“We have seen that this is not a good environment for the electoral process,” he said. “We can say it is illegal that they have tried to win over people’s hearts and used intimidation.”

He hopes that incumbent commune councilors from the opposition will hold their ground and vote for the Khmer Will Party. He expects the party will win eight seats across the country.

Ruling CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan rejected the claims that the CPP had intimidated voters or tried to buy votes.

“The election is held by secret ballot. No one has the right to intimidate. They [the opposition] have just fabricated the information because intimidation or trying to win people’s hearts is contrary to the principles of a confidential vote,” he said.

He said that election campaigns always lobby each other, and lobbying does involve intimidation. 

“If we’re talking about lobbying, I agree because it is the right of lobbyists, and if people do not join that’s up to them. They have that right, so no one comes to intimidate,” he said. “Lobbying is not trying to win people’s hearts.”

The CPP does not have money allocated to buy votes, Eysan added.

“The Cambodian People’s Party is not stupid to do what they have been accused of [voter intimidation]” Eysan said. “There is no promise [to give money].” 

He said even if the opposition candidates won some seats, these Senators will be useless because they are minority voices.

Van Va, a councilor in Koh Samroang commune, claimed there was “no intimidation” for votes in the Senate election. 

“We will win a majority of seats because the Cambodian People’s Party has good leadership. They have been helping people without discrimination or biases based on political opinions,” he said.

According to Va, there are seven commune councilors in Koh Samroang, five from the CPP and two from the Candlelight Party.

Chhim Chanthoeun, director of the Kampong Cham Provincial Election Committee, said voting in Kampong Cham on Sunday has been carried out smoothly so far.

“During the electoral process, nothing [irregular] happened, including with public security. It went smoothly,” he said.

Region two in Kampong Cham and Tboung Khmum have eight Senate seats, with 827 voters, 10 of which are lawmakers from the National Assembly.

Additional Report in Phnom Penh of Votes Bought by CPP

Keo Somony, second deputy chief of Chbar Ampov I commune from the Candlelight Party, said that some members of the electorate from the Candlelight Party were intimidated by the CPP and their votes were bought, with the ruling party using money to change people’s minds. 

“The information we got is that they [the CPP] will give money, but they will not give it immediately until after the election,” he told CamboJA News Sunday at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh. “I know that some people are not able to leave [go against the offer], they are only able to comply with them [the CPP].”

Somony also noted that some high ranking government officials came into polling stations to observe which put pressure on voters. 

“If they didn’t come into the area that would be good. As we know city governors have legislative power that seems to affect the voters,” he said. 

When contacted by a CamboJA News reporter, ruling CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan denied claims that the CPP had intimidated voters or bought votes. He said the opposition was fabricating these claims.

“There is no promise [to give money],” he said. “No one comes to intimidate.”

Somony expects the Khmer Will Party to at least win some seats in the Senate, giving some voice to the opposition. 

“We want to have a mix of voices from parties in the Senate working together. After this election we hope Candlelight will have some seats in the Senate to make some change at any level,” he said. 

Phnom Penh is part of region one for the Senate election, which has 899 councilors, from 105 communes, and 12 lawmakers voting in the Senate election. 

Voters arrived at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh in the early morning, first checking their names on a voter list. Older, pregnant and disabled people were permitted to vote first. The polling site has two polling offices where 911 voters can cast their ballots. Police officers, foreign observers and authorities observed the polling station on Sunday. 

Commune councilors check their names on a voter list in the Senate election at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Ly Navy, a CPP councilor from Mean Chey district, said the polling station was well-organized and she felt comfortable voting for her representative. 

“I’m happy and proud that I came here to vote, because I stand for the people, the people that voted for us. They have expectations of us, so we need to complete our duty,” she said. 

She has high expectations for the CPP party, adding that she wants to see the Senate develop policies for the country and continue its hard work.

Former union leader Chea Mony, who is aligned with the minority National Power Party, told CamboJA News that he could not respond to any questions yet because the election is ongoing. He said he had not received any information from his observers who were currently observing at all polling stations. 

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng told CamboJA News that authorities have strengthened security throughout the city to make sure the process of the Senate election goes smoothly.

“We have prepared the team since the election campaign and our forces are following the plan to protect the voters, to provide security in polling stations and in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Sreng added that no unusual incidents had occurred so far and he hopes there are no bad accidents that disrupt the election.

Preliminary Results:

The Kampong Cham provincial polling station counted its ballots around 10 a.m., with the ruling CPP receiving 667 votes, the Khmer Will Party receiving 151 votes, the Funcinpec Party receiving one vote and Nation Power Party receiving two votes.

The Provincial Election Committee director Chhim Chanthoeun said that counting the ballots early does not violate procedures because in this case all of the eligible voters had already completed voting. 

By the early afternoon, the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh was less crowded, as nearly 1,000 voters showed up to vote in the early morning. At around 1 p.m., NEC poll workers began counting ballots in the first polling office at the high school. The CPP received 414 votes, the Khmer Will Party received 43 votes and the Funcinpec Party received 1 vote. Three additional votes were invalid. 

At 3 p.m, the director of the polling station announced the end of voting in the second polling office, and election workers began counting ballots. The CPP received 405 votes and the Khmer Will Party received 45 votes. There was one invalid vote, six ripped ballots and 45 unused ballots. Election workers finished counting ballots at the second polling office at 4:30 p.m. The ballot counting process went smoothly at both polling offices at the high school. 

Hang Puthea, spokesperson of NEC, told CamboJA News that he will not be able to confirm the preliminary results until 7 p.m., when they will be announced on national television.  

He added that the temporary results will be announced on February 28, followed by official results on April 2. If any party plans to file a complaint with the NEC regarding the results, they can do so anytime between February 28 and April 2.

CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said that, while he could not officially confirm the results before the NEC announced them, the CPP won a landslide victory compared to the other parties. 

“I feel happy about our landslide victory, we got at least 50 seats,” he said.

Khmer Will Party spokesperson Kimsour Phearith told CamboJA News at 6 p.m. that the party will receive three seats in the Senate election, but he declined to reveal the total number of votes the party received.

NEC officials count ballots in the Senate election at the Preah Sisowath High School polling station in Phnom Penh on February 25, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Funcinpec Party spokesperson Nhoeurn Raden said he could not confirm the results as the results are still being collected from all of the polling locations.

Chea Mony, vice president of the Nation Power Party, told CamboJA News that had not received the result totals from each province yet. 

“I would not dare speak about the total results, because the NEC has not publicly announced them yet. I need to be careful when speaking about this,” he said. 

He said he expects that his party will earn some seats in the Senate, and even if that is not the case, it will be good information for the party to see how much support they received through votes in the election. 

“If we don’t have any voice, it’s good to know about the amount of supporters,” he said.

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