CNRP, Observers Put Election Ink to Test

Representatives from the E.U., CNRP and civil society organizations put newly delivered election ink to the test on Wednesday, a week after a spokesman for the country’s top election body warned that a sample batch of the ink could be washed off using a hair care product.

—Commune Election 2017—

Most representatives who dipped their fingers in the indelible ink said they were satisfied with the results, but a tester representing the opposition party demonstrated the ink stain could be mostly removed in five minutes.

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A CNRP official holds up his hand after washing off election ink, intended to be indelible, from his ring finger using a hair care product, in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

At the Phnom Penh headquarters of the National Election Committee (NEC), the group of 16 testers attempted to remove the ink by using a hair straightening product that early tests of sample ink had shown capable of removal. The NEC claimed a later, bulk order to be used in the election did not have the same problem.

The representatives then showed their stained fingers to the media, with most still showing a stain band. However, the finger of Morn Phalla, chief of the CNRP’s executive committee in Phnom Penh, only showed faint traces of the ink.

“As the media has all seen, this ink really can be washed off in a short period of time,” Mr. Phalla said. He called for the NEC to replace the election ink.

Nonetheless, Mr. Phalla and others in attendance were largely optimistic that a number of other new NEC reforms would guard against double-voting, including a revised voter registration list, a requirement to show voter ID cards at the polls, bipartisan poll monitoring and stiff fines for violators of up to 20 million riel, or about $5,000, introduced in the wake of the disputed 2013 national vote.

“I am worried about those who have the bad intention to vote more than once, but my hope is that the NEC guaranteed that voters will have their name in the voting list only once,” Mr. Phalla said. He said it would be difficult for voters to beat the system.

George Edgar, E.U. ambassador to Cambodia, said his finger remained stained hours after the vote.

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Morn Phalla, chief of the CNRP executive committee in Phnom Penh, dips his finger into a container of ink to be used in the upcoming June 4 commune elections, at the National Election Committee headquarters in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“I am confident that, taken together, the measures planned by the NEC should provide a robust safeguard against multiple voting,” he wrote in an email yesterday. “Domestic observers and party agents will be able to monitor the correct application of procedures at the polling stations.”

Korn Savang, monitoring coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel), the country’s largest independent election monitor, praised the transparency behind the NEC’s decision to publicly test the ink, but said he still had concerns.

“We are still worried because the ink…has to be non-washable and specially used to recognize those who vote more than once,” he said.

NEC president Sek Bunhok claimed there was no ink that was completely impervious to washing, and promised legal action against anyone attempting to undermine the election.

“Any organization that did anything in order to destroy the election—just wait and see how strictly NEC will follow up the law,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)
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