[Published in the Khmer Times on 15 June 2017.]
The just completed commune elections raise an interesting question for the opposition CNRP.
As is well known, for the last four years, the CNRP has claimed that it “really” won the 2013 general election but was cheated out of its just result.
Less well known is that the CNRP never got around to telling the public where it thought it had been robbed: in which provinces it had been cheated out of how many votes. Leaving aside the fact that this alone raises serious doubts about the claimed fraud, consider another aspect.
The NEC’s final tally of the 2013 nationwide result was 48.83% for the CPP and 44.46% for the CNRP. (The remainder went to FUNCINPEC and other small parties, none of which won a National Assembly seat.)
If, as it claimed, the CNRP had really won 63 seats to the CPP’s 60, and since Cambodia doesn’t have an electoral college to frustrate the will of voters, certainly the CNRP would have had to obtain more votes than the CPP.
Exactly how many more is impossible to say, but of the two parties’ total (93.29%), the larger portion would have had to go to the CNRP. The division might have been 47.15% for the CNRP to 46.14% for the CPP. Or it might have been 48% to 45.29%, or even a larger margin.
So, if the CNRP claim that it was defrauded were true, that party’s vote in 2013 would have been 47% or 48% or 49% and the CPP’s total only 46% or 45% or 44% (leaving aside the fractions). That is, in effect the CNRP is claiming that its real vote was somewhere around 47-49%, but it was cheated.
In the commune elections, by contrast, there were only a few minor disputes and demands for recounts, no claims of systematic misrepresentation. We have so far only the preliminary count, but there are no challenges large enough that, if true, they could seriously alter the national vote totals. And those totals, according to press reports, are 51% for the CPP and 46% for the CNRP.
On the basis of the official figures, this is an increase for both parties over 2013 (because of a smaller vote for minor parties). But on the CNRP’s version of electoral history, its own vote has decreased by 1-3%, while the CPP’s has improved by 5-7%.
Of course the CNRP prefers to compare its 2017 vote to the 2012 commune election, when it was not united but still two smaller parties, competing with each other. But I have yet to hear of any CNRP leader admitting that this time the party didn’t do as well as in 2013.
So, the question for the CNRP is, which is it: Did your support drop in this election? Or were your claims of election fraud in 2013 so much nonsense?