Posted by: Simon & Becci | August 6, 2013

Black fingernails and number seven

Anyone visiting Phnom Penh over the past week or so will have noticed the bizarre sight of everyone seemingly painting their right index finger black. A new and strange fashion trend? No – instead evidence that they voted in Cambodia’s general election at the end of July.

MX voting

Mei Xiang shows off her democratic nail art

In order to help identify those who have voted and those yet to do so, once you drop your paper in the ballot box you then dip your finger in thick black ink and go on your way. Even a week after the election the ink is very much in evidence so it is surprisingly effective.

The election itself has been a closely contested race between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and newly formed opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party. The new party, also commonly referred to as “number seven” (as they are the seventh party on the ballot paper) have gained a lot of support, particularly amongst young people and first time voters, many of whom are eager for change after many years of CPP rule under long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sam Rainsy,leader of the Cambodia National Rescue party on the campaign trail

Sam Rainsy, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue party on the campaign trail

The official result has not yet been declared, but both parties have claimed victory (CPP claiming they have a much reduced majority of 13 seats, CNRP rejecting this result and claiming victory with a majority of 3). Meanwhile many stories and rumours have flown around about electoral irregularities such as names missing from voting lists and illegal votes being submitted.

Unsurprsingly this has led to a fair amount of uneasiness and tension around Phnom Penh. We arrived back the day before the election, and found a few signs of potential panic for the few days afterwards. Phnom Penh’s streets were far quieter than normal, the bakeries had sold out of bread, the price of boxes of noodles in the market doubled and we couldn’t find an ATM which had any dollars in it!

Current Prime Minister Hun Sen

Current Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led the country through turbulent times and overseen much development over recent years

Much of city life has now returned to normal but a feeling of uncertainty remains. Whatever the final outcome what is clear is that the younger generation are finding their voice and that the days of a largely one party system are numbered. Our prayer is for peace and co-operation between parties, integrity and humility to be shown by leaders and for everyone to work for the good of the country as a whole rather than their own agenda.



  1. Hope everything works out smoothly for the results, whichever way it pans out.
    Following the build up online before the election was very interesting… The impression over here was that Number 7 seemed to have a huge following compared to a much more laid back expectation of victory from the current leaders. Does that tally with the situation on the ground?
    (p.s. Although Mike has ‘liked’ this post, he doesn’t know it yet… I was still logged on as him on WordPress πŸ˜‰ )

  2. We will continue to follow the situation with much interest and prayer input. No news of your part of the world ever gets mentioned– so please continue to keep us all up to date. Inking fingers at election time could well catch on in the West, could bring a new meaning to being green fingered. Would do havoc with manicured finger nails though. Take care both.

  3. This is most interesting. Thank you for keeping us posted about developments. Sue and I are off to the Netherlands for a couple of weeks. A small town, followed by a car-free island in the North Sea, and then Amsterdam. You’re in our hearts. πŸ™‚ Many blessings, Hugh & Sue

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