Election Rule Change Slows Candidate Registration

A change in election rules has created confusion among political parties and commune chiefs, slowing the process for registering candidates for July’s national election, officials said Thursday.

Since election registration began Monday, only three of Cambodia’s 57 political parties have submitted their official candidate lists, Som Chan Dyna, a National Election Committee official representing the SRP, said at an NEC press conference Thursday.

Some officials blame that low number on changes made to the candidate certification process.

The main problem is confusion about who can approve a candidacy and where it should be done. In past elections, candidates could get approval from a commune chief if the candidate could prove they live in the chief’s commune and had previously voted there, according to Som Chan Dyna. But this time around, candidates need not prove residency. Instead they only need to get approval from the commune chief that presides over where the candidate last voted, regardless of where the candidate currently lives, he said.

Khem Veasna, president of the League for Democracy Party, said a commune chief has refused to sign off on one of his party’s candidates, Chan Ny, three times.

Chheak Hoeung, the chief of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Keng Kang 3 commune, said Thursday that he had not approved the form because Chan Ny no longer lived within his commune.

Chheak Hoeung’s reason for denying Chan Ny matches the rule confusion mentioned by Som Chan Dyna, but Khem Veasna insisted that the commune chief is being motivated by politics.

“He didn’t want to understand. He wanted to create a hurdle,” Khem Veasna said.

“The schedule is too short,” complained Rath Bory, the HRP representative at the NEC press conference. He added that his party also faces “discrimination by commune chiefs denying certifying letters for lawmaker candidates from the HRP.”

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha acknowledged that there are problems with the registration process, but said he knows of only a few cases. He added that the NEC is working with parties and commune officials on a case-by-case basis so parties can meet the May 12 candidate registration deadline.

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