The Cambodian government has agreed to pay $6.3 million, or more than one-third of the costs of the first-ever commune council elections in February, UN officials said Wednesday.
“The financial level of commitment by the government is a very positive development,” said Dominique Ait Ouyahia McAdams, the UN Development Program’s resident representative.
She said it may be hard for the cash-strapped government to find the money, but that its willingness to do so “sends a very important signal” about its commitment to democracy.
The commune elections, originally estimated to cost $24 million, have been underfunded for months as pledges by donor nations have been slow in coming. Elections officials trimmed back their cost estimates to about $15 million, but UNDP advisers say they expect them to cost
The difficulty, McAdams said, is that even nations that routinely support elections in the developing world focus almost exclusively on national elections.
Cambodia’s commune elections, while arguably more important to the growth of democracy than parliamentary elections, have been a harder sell in some donor countries, she said.
Donor nations, including Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, and Sweden, have already provided $2,249,000, according to a chart provided by UNDP.
That early money was earmarked for computers, voter education and voter registration costs, leaving the government to pay the $6.3 million for election worker salaries.
Another $6.78 million has been pledged but not yet received, bringing the total pledged to just over $9 million, UNDP officials say. Those pledges include $730,000 from the United Kingdom and $350,000 from Canada, both for voter registration.
The two largest contributions —$3 million pledged by Japan and $2.7 million pledged by the European Community—are for the actual election, and are smaller than anticipated.
The UNDP has budgeted $830,000 for a five-man team of election advisers, which will also prepare a post-election report to be used to help organize the 2003 national elections.