The Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) on Tuesday shared initial findings from a survey carried out across the country in the wake of July’s national election, which found that one-third of the country’s eligible voters could not vote on election day.
Laura Thornton, the NDI’s country director, said the survey was conducted nationwide to assess the impact of candidate debates organized by NDI, and also to understand people’s experiences on voting day in the wake of widespread reports of irregularities and complaints that people were unable to vote.
The survey, conducted by the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) found that “29.5 percent of citizens attempted to vote on election day, but were unable to.” This amounts to about one-third of eligible voters.
“Of citizens unable to vote, 32.6 percent were unable to find their names on the list,” while “15.2 percent said they were prevented from voting by polling officials.”
Coupled with the 300,000-vote difference between the ruling CPP and the opposition CNRP, “this number of disenfranchised voters had the potential to have changed the outcome of the elections,” Ms. Thornton said.
The CNRP, which won 55 seats to the CPP’s 68 seats, is presently boycotting the National Assembly.
“The failure of any adequate response to the problem is as alarming as the problem itself,” she added.
“There was never a proper, thorough, and independent investigation into disenfranchisement either before, when ample evidence of the problem was presented, or following the elections.”
She said that the National Election Committee (NEC) had, in fact, “obstructed” citizens from obtaining information about their place on the voter list by preventing political parties access to the list and failing to post it at village level.
“Disenfranchisement to such a scale indicates such flaws in the election system to require fundamental reforms, reforms that will not only guarantee but also facilitate the right to vote for citizens,” Ms. Thornton said in an email.
“The cumbersome, and susceptible to manipulation, registration process in particular has made voting in Cambodia a difficult privilege (for some) to obtain, not an endowed right as it should be.”
Speaking by telephone, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said he had not seen the report, which he said was a “personal” project of the CAS.
He rejected the finding that 29.5 percent of eligible voters failed in their attempts to vote, arguing instead that the people who claimed they were disenfranchised must never have registered in the first place.