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NEC Happy with Voter Turnout, Says Spoiled Ballots Will Not Affect Results

PHNOM PENH: Secretary-General of the National Election Committee, Tep Nytha, spoke approvingly of the number of people who went to the polls for the 7th National Assembly election on Sunday. He insisted that the high voter turnout showed that Cambodians understand the value of democracy despite efforts by CPP opponents to thwart the election process.

Speaking at a post-election briefing on the night of July 23, Tep Nytha emphasized that some people’s attempt to protest Cambodia’s election process was unsuccessful, although he did not name names or parties.

"We can see that there is a movement that dissuades people from coming to the polls. There is a movement to spoil ballots, but in general we see a lot of people coming to the polls at a high rate," he said.

Preliminary voter figures obtained by the NEC show that 8,213,260 people went to the polls, representing 84.58% of the 9,710,655 registered voters.

While yesterday’s election was largely free of incident, some polling station locations had to be moved due to groups trying to disrupt the process. Days of rain also affected some areas, where supplies had to be delivered by elephant and helicopter. Despite these minor setbacks, said NEC Chairman Prach Chan, this year's election was smooth, safe, orderly, free and intimidation.

The 7th Cambodian National Assembly Election took place on July 23, with 18 parties competing. According to the NEC, the Cambodian People's Party is leading the counting process by a wide margin.

CPP President, Prime Minister Hun Sen, released a message after the polls had closed and said that the high voter turnout proved that Cambodians love peace and development and have begun to withdraw support from the opposition Candlelight Party, that was not permitted to run in this election. He associated the Candlelight Party with an “extremist group,” presumably referring to exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who posted photos that had been sent to him yesterday of voters who had crossed out their ballots in protest.

"The number of people going to the polls this year is far greater than when the Candlelight Party joined [in the last election],” he said. "Now we are waiting to see how many ballots are spoiled because the leaders of the extremist group have made it very clear that spoiled ballots are ballots that support them."

So far, the NEC has not been able to confirm the number of invalid ballots. While the official ballot count continues, the Secretary-General of the NEC stated that invalid ballots will not affect the overall election.

While preliminary counts have been witnessed all over the country, the official election results are not expected to be released until August 9-September 4, provided there are no irregularities or complaints.

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