The National Election Committee has changed a controversial rule to have ballot boxes stored overnight at polling officials’ homes before being transported to counting centers.
The reversal, announced Wednesday at the NEC’s first daily press conference, was praised by election observers as a move to eliminate opportunities for fraud.
“For polling stations too far to send their ballot box to central offices in time, they will keep the ballot box overnight in the polling station and they will have to safeguard carefully with police, party agents and observers,” Samraing Kamsan, spokesman for NEC Chairman Chheng Phon, said Wednesday.
“This is the new instruction issued to replace the previous instruction…so that the safety of the ballot boxes is maintained,” he said.
Samraing Kamsan, however, stressed that polling stations still should send the ballot boxes to commune counting centers the same day as polling, if at all possible.
Under the electoral law, election observers and party agents have the right to stay overnight with ballot boxes to ensure they are not tampered with before counting.
But election observers said a rule requiring those ballot boxes to be stored at the polling station chief’s home discouraged observers from remaining with the boxes. Plus, it would simply look bad, since polling station chiefs are more than likely to be CPP-affiliated officials.
An adviser to the NEC said Wednesday that the reversal came in part because of protests from the UN human rights office in Phnom Penh.
One elections observer said Wednesday that the decision is a step in the right direction.
“The goal is to have as many eyes as possible on these things, and they have now made that possible,” he said. “I think this was a change they just had to make. It was indefensible.”