Donors Pledge Money for General Elections

Six donor countries on Friday informally pledged to send money for next year’s general election at the first meeting of the donors and the government since the newly elected National Elec­tion Committee was sworn in.

The elections, which Deputy Prime Minster Sar Kheng said will cost around $12.5 million, will be held on July 27.

While the government prom­ised to contribute at least $5 million, China, Japan, Australia, Britain, Sweden and the US tentatively assured the government they would support the ballot.

“I can guarantee that the Bri­tish government will support [the elections] and it will be in the region in the same figures we supported in the past,” said British Ambassador Stephen Bridges. Britain contributed $723,250 to the government for the commune elections, which were held on Feb 3.

While he thanked the government for highlighting the issue of security for the elections, he recommended that the government also take heed of intimidation.

“It’s the inalienable right of individuals to practice their democratic freedom to vote in an environment that is both safe and intimidation free,” Bridges said, adding that he encouraged the government to take action against those who pose a security threat for the election.

Japan, the largest donor to Cambodia, also pledged on Friday to help support the election, said Katsuhiro Shinahara, the first secretary from the Japanese Embassy. Shinahara said Japan would give roughly the same amount that it offered during the commune elections—which would be about $3 million, according to previous UN Development Program statistics.

Australian Ambassador Louise Hand said that Australia was tentatively prepared to contribute roughly $600,000 toward the national election fund, much of which would be earmarked for the voter registration process.

The US, meanwhile, would give $6 million toward the election process but refrained from providing any money directly to the government. Acting US Embassy Charge d’Affairs Lisa Chiles said the US’ $6 million contribution would go toward NGOs and groups in civil society, specifically election monitors and those promoting women candidates.

Earlier in the meeting, newly appointed NEC Chairman Im Suosdey said approximately 40,000 national and international observers would be used during the elections.

One of the largest surprises of the meeting came from Chinese Ambassador Ning Fu Kui, who told the attendees that he would “suggest to the [Chinese] government that it provide the same assistance” it did to the government of Cambodia for the commune elections. Figures were not available for how much China contributed to previous elections.

Earlier in the meeting, Sar Kheng said the government “desperately” needed assistance for the 2003 elections and “kindly called for the support” of the donor countries.

Citing the reform of the administration of the NEC, the polling stations, registration process of voters and ballot counting process, Sar Kheng said the government has been working strongly to push for democracy in the country.

Claes Leijon, counselor to the Embassy of Sweden, pledged that Sweden would contribute “a little less” than it did for the commune elections. Sweden gave $692,950 to the government for the commune elections.

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