Committee Begins to Tap Donors for Commune Election

The National Election Commit­tee (NEC) has revised its projected budget for the forthcoming com­mune election from $15 million to $19 million, NEC President Im Sousdey said yesterday.

“I know $19 million is the total cost, but I’m not sure how much the government will pay,” he said.

The figure includes the cost of Sept­ember and October’s voter registration process as well as next July’s commune council elections.

According to NEC Secretary-Gen­eral Tep Nitha, the government had initially committed to pay 70 percent of the budget, while aid agencies, foreign donors, and NGOs would cover 30 percent.

Officials from the UN Develop­ment Program (UNDP)—the first group the NEC plans to solicit funds from—met yesterday with Mr Sousdey.

“We did not discuss budgets. We discussed the process of the election registration,” Mr Sousdey said, adding that UNDP would soon be sending a delegation from New York who would assess the possible monetary contribution.

UNDP declined to comment di­rectly on their potential contribution.

In an e-mailed response, the UNDP said: “Meeting with NEC was part of regular consultations be­tween UNDP and various stakeholders working in the area of dem­ocratic governance. The meeting was for UNDP to be updated about preparations for the elections.”

Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that because funding from outside donors was tighter than during previous elections, the NEC would likely have to work harder to make its case for funding.

“It’s not like before. They must dem­onstrate a commitment to re­form,” Mr Panha said. For this election, the NEC would have to actively seek out funding in a way they have not had to do previously, Mr Panha said.

“The NEC should be proactive, not just wait for the money. They should try to work for reform, im­prove procedure, work for an election that guarantees freedom and fairness,” he said. “I think it’s a challenge for the NEC; they don’t have any ideas how to change things.”

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