As Elections Near, Concerns About Voter List Remain

With little more than a month to the July 28 national election, the issue that is of particular concern to election monitors is the voter list, which they say is less accurate and representative of the electorate than during the last national election in 2008.

The accuracy of the 9.6 million-strong voter list came under fire in March and those concerns were reiterated with the release of the final version on Friday of an independent audit report, which found a number of serious errors, namely that more than 1 in 10 peo­ple who are registered for July’s election appear not to exist, and that 9 percent of past voters have been taken off local voting lists unfairly.

The report, which was originally released in March, was compiled by the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elec­tions in Cambodia (Nicfec), the Cen­ter for Advanced Studies and the Wash­ington-based National Dem­o­cratic Institute.

The National Election Commit­tee (NEC), however, has largely disregarded the report arguing that it contained data they said was collected in an unorthodox way.

The report found that 10.8 percent of 4,900 registered Cambo­dian voters, chosen by random sampling, could not find their names on the voter list. That figure compared poorly to the 7.7 percent of registered names that could not be found on the voter list in 2008.

When the auditors assessed the names that were deleted from the voter list, they found that 9.4 percent of them had been erroneously removed, which is also the same number as in 2008. And of the people sampled in the report, only 63.6 percent of the names on the list could be verified in person to live where they are registered.

The report also found that just 82.9 percent of eligible citizens are registered to vote in the election, which is a decrease of some 5 percent since the last election in 2008. That 82.9 percent figure contrasts starkly with the NEC, which maintains that the number of registered voters is at 101.7 percent of the eligible population.

Overall, election monitors say, such flaws will directly impact the vote.

And the problems don’t end there.

Since the voter list was finalized and made public in January, copies of it have been distributed to commune offices around the country, with the intention of giving registered voters a chance to verify that their names are on the list before election day.

However, Nicfec coordinator Sam Kuntheamy said Friday that confusion has erupted, particularly because some new polling stations have been set up without voters’ knowledge, and people don’t know where to go to find the list or their names.

“They [are] confused and don’t know where the polling station is,” he said.

“We asked the NEC to post the voter list at the village level, but the NEC refused our suggestion. I just came back from Kompong Speu [province] where I talked to voters and commune clerks and there is still confusion.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said on Friday that people had been given plenty of time to find their names on the voter list, adding: “If they cannot find their names, it might mean that they did not register.”

“But I’m not concerned about this. I think the election will just go smoothly,” he added.

Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann, however, said the deletion and omission of so many names from the voter list is one of his party’s greatest concerns. He also urged the NEC and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP to “try and solve the problem now before the crisis comes out.”

“It is a systematic farce; they have the mechanism to remove the names of voters,” he said, adding that he believes there will be “many problems” on election day.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said he had not heard of any issues arising from people being listed to vote at different polling stations, as is the case in Kompong Speu.
An updated voter list will be posted around the country on June 26, he said.

“NGOs have copied that [voter list] and distributed it to the provinces,” Mr. Nytha said.

“A month before the election, we will also post the voter lists in each commune, and then a day before the election, we will post them in each polling station. This is to make sure that the voters can verify their names.”

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