Election Day Coming, Many Voters Unsure When

With just two months to go until Cambodia’s commune elections, more than half of respondents to a new survey could not identify Election Day.

The finding was detailed in a report released on Wednesday by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) describing interviews with 2,690 registered voters from across all 25 provinces, including the municipality of Phnom Penh, between December and February.

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From left, Nicfec executive director Sam Kuntheamy, Comfrel senior program coordinator Kim Chhorn and Comfrel senior monitor Korn Savang present their voter registration audit in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Emil Kastrup/The Cambodia Daily)

Of those interviewed, 55.8 percent did not know when the June 4 commune elections would be held, according to the report.

Hang Puthea, a spokesman for the National Election Committee (NEC), said he was “not worried at all” about the lack of awareness as they had just started spreading the word about voting this month.

“We are disseminating it via Facebook, website, TV, radio, leaflets, posters, mobile teams with loudspeakers,” and word of mouth, he said. “At least we still have two more months.”

However, Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the inability of voters to identify the date of Election Day was a cause for concern.

“We need more education,” he said.

Mr. Kuntheamy suggested that the NEC could help publicize the date “through the media, radio, TV, outreach programs,” an effort that he said would be especially helpful for getting information to Cambodians who are residing outside the country.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a prominent CNRP official and the only member of the royal family openly aligned with the CNRP, said a committee in charge of disseminating election information would begin its work on Friday.

Comfrel also reported on Wednesday that about 89 percent of Cambodians living inside the country who are eligible to vote had registered for the upcoming commune elections, while 92 percent of the respondents knew which legal documents they must bring to the polls.

Korn Savang, a senior monitor at Comfrel who presented the voter registration data at Wednesday’s launch, said the 89 percent figure only represented those voters inside the country and did not capture the population of voters living abroad.

“For Comfrel, we have the ability to focus on local people,” he said. “We did not focus on overseas people.”

According to the NEC, nearly 8 million Cambodians registered to vote during the three-month registration period last year.

That meant that about 81 percent of eligible voters had registered, according to the commmittee, including the approximately two million voters living or working outside the country.

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