The coordinating committee for 40 local election monitoring NGOs narrowly escaped closure earlier this week when they received a $6,500 donation from the Australian government.
One committee member last Friday said the committee had dissolved due to a lack of funding. But the Australian donation and the offer of a consultant from the Netherlands saved the committee four months before Cambodia’s commune elections.
The coordinating committee is crucial to the commune election monitoring process since it oversees the activities of all election observers, according to committee President Pok Nanda. She said its responsibilities include educating observers on election law and ethics, routinely checking up on observers and ensuring their distribution across the country.
So far, the coordinating committee has handed out 9,487 cards to screened observers, she said.
During the 1998 national elections, some observers didn’t know the rules, and there were stations with too many or too few observers. In addition, some observers sold their cards to poor farmers, who thought they could earn money with the cards.
Aside from funding difficulties, the coordinating committee has also struggled with criticism from the country’s major monitoring groups, who claim the committee is trying to usurp power from the NGOs that it oversees.
“They misunderstand us. We just want to unite the civil society in one voice,” Pok Nanda said.