Finance Chief Appeals for More Aid to Pay Poll Costs

Finance Minister Keat Chhon called Wednesday for more international assistance for Cam­bodia’s elections, as estimated poll costs have soared from $21 million to between $25 million and $28 million.

Keat Chhon made the appeal as the National Assembly en­dorsed the government’s $5 million contribution to the fund. That money will be added to a pledged $11.5 million from the European Union and a further $3 million from the Japanese government.

Co-Minister of the Interior You Hockry confirmed Wednesday that election spending will have to increase for technical reasons.

“About $28 million will be used for all electoral cooperation,” he told reporters outside the Nation­al Assembly.

That leaves an $8.5 million shortfall.

Keat Chhon said the final figure may be closer to $25 million, but added that the cost of the election had to be recalculated to take into account additional smaller expenses, such as a need for more cameras to take photographs for voting cards.

“We need the international community to assist Cambodia in funding the election so it is free and fair, because the government can only pay $5 million for the election,” he said.

The Finance Minister said the government is committed to paying for the election out of its own pocket, if necessary, despite the fears of some Assembly members that the government does not have enough money.

“Even if we have more expenditures, I will try not to affect economic stability, inflation or other items like salaries for civil servants,” he said.

Keat Chhon reaffirmed that the election will take place as scheduled July 26, but he reminded Assembly members that they still need to debate laws and procedures relating to the election.

Now that the election budget law is approved, the Assembly has started discussing the long-awaited legislation concerning the Constitutional Council.

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