The National Election Committee (NEC) on Friday dismissed a recent independent audit of its voter list for this year’s national elections that warned as many as 1.25 million Cambodians could lose their right to vote due to errors made in the registration process.
The independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) released its audit last week, saying that for 13.5 percent of registered voters, either their names did not appear on the NEC’s voter list or that their personal data had been “changed entirely,” hampering their chances of casting a ballot on election day.
The NEC formally replied to the audit on Friday defending its list.
“Monitoring of the voter list by Comfrel is untruthful,” it said in statement posted to its website.
In the statement, the NEC accuses Comfrel of using out-of-date population data from the Ministry of Planning to dispute the NEC’s number of registered voters, which stands at 300,000 more people than there are Cambodians eligible to vote.
The NEC also defended its decision not to delete some names that appear twice on the grounds that the names actually belong to distinct voters, and accused Comfrel of using the wrong government forms to come up with the number of people it believes were deleted from the last voter list.
Finally, it rejected Comfrel’s estimate of the number of people at risk of losing their vote because the NEC had in fact deleted only 468,485 names from the previous voter list.
“So Comfrel’s finding that the people who were registered but did not have their names of the list was 13.5 percent, equal to 1.25 million, is not true,” the statement says.
The NEC, however, appeared to be confusing the number of people it deleted from the last voter list with the number of people Comfrel claims were wrongfully left off the list or who had their personal data erroneously recorded.
Comfrel executive director Koul Panha defended his group’s audit on Sunday, insisting that it used the Planning Ministry’s population data because the NEC was clearly doing something wrong with its own data by coming up with more registered voters than there were people eligible to vote.
“So the NEC must recognize the weakness of their technique,” he said. “They always find more than 100 percent of eligible voters.”
He urged the NEC to abandon its knee-jerk reaction to reject any criticism directed its way and instead listen to outside advice.
“The NEC should have a positive attitude to listen to the findings of the observers,” he said. “Comfrel [tries] to help them because we want to see more credibility of the elections.”
Mr. Panha also pointed out that Comfrel used several forms to cross-reference those who were deleted or left off the list and insisted that some of the duplicated names belonged to people with identical personal data, not to distinct individuals as the NEC claimed.
The NEC mounted a similar defense of its voter list last month soon after the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute came out with its own audit of the voter list concluding that 1 in 10 of the names on it appeared not to belong to real people and that 9 percent of voters on the NEC’s previous list were unfairly removed.