Faulty Radios Hinder Registration Process

In the end, it came down to balky walkie-talkies.

Elections officials said Wed­nesday that problems with “about five” battery-powered radios meant candidate lists from some communes didn’t get reported on time to provincial headquarters.

“But today, we have most of it,” said Im Suosdey, secretary-general of the National Election Com­mittee. “I think we are doing better than in 1998, and we are learning a lot that will be useful in the 2003 elections.”

Earlier this week, the lists of prospective candidates for the February elections in each of Cam­bodia’s 1,621 communes were submitted to local authorities across the country.

It‘s a mammoth undertaking. The commune councils will range in size from seven to 11 members, and each party is required to field twice as many candidates in each commune as there are seats.

Leng Sochea, director of the NEC’s bureau of public information, said nearly 69,000 candidates have been registered, but that num­ber is not complete. He said results are still being tabulated in  Kandal, Prey Veng, Siem Reap and Oddar Mean­­chey.

The preliminary totals are as follows: the CPP will run 24,028 candidates in 1,574 communes; Fun­cin­pec, 22,287 candidates in 1,528 communes; and the Sam Rainsy Party, 21,676 candidates in 1,443 communes.

The Khmer Democratic Party will run 809 candidates in 51 communes; Khmer Angkor, 24 candidates in two communes; Khemar­ak Vongkut, 63 candidates in five communes; and Khmer Cham­roeun Niyun, 70 candidates in four communes.

Major party officials provided slightly higher numbers. Funcin­pec said it will field candidates in 1,611 communes, while the Sam Rainsy Party will run slates in 1,500 communes. The CPP de­clin­ed to comment.

Both the NEC and the political parties must rely on walkie-talkies to relay information, since many communes lack electricity or telephone service.

Im Suosdey said the NEC’s radios were left over from the 1998 elections and some no longer worked, a problem made worse when some local officials tried to fix them without knowing how.

He said communications problems were worst in the hilly and remote former Khmer Rouge territory near the Thai border, where trips between communes and prov­incial centers can take days.

But he said those excuses didn’t apply to Kompong Cham and Kampot provinces, both of which were also late in reporting data.

“Kompong Cham is so close, we can shout and they can hear us,” he said. “I criticized them to­day so they will do better.”

 

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