kompong speu town – Prum Kim Thai is nervous.
The provincial election commission chief here is worried that final voter registration books and insoluble ink for the 578 polling stations in this mountainous province won’t arrive on time.
On top of that, there are far too many election observers. He doesn’t know where they’ll all fit.
“The elections are a long way from being over,” a weary Prum Kim Thai said Thursday morning in an interview in his office.
By 3 pm, voter registration booklets and the insoluble ink used to mark the fingers of those who have already voted still had not reached his office.
The processing of voter lists at the National Election Committee headquarters had been held up by a computer glitch, although the rolls were supposed to be on their way by Thursday afternoon.
The voter rolls are computer-generated lists of names.
If they don’t show up soon, Prum Kim Thai said, it will be a disaster. “The election cannot be processed. It will have been for nothing.”
His worry is that the pitted backroads in the heavily forested province, which has six seats in the National Assembly, will prevent the materials from being delivered to polling stations on time. The Cardamom Mountains cover the province’s north and west, and heavy jungles cover the mountains.
“I am very nervous because there are some districts that are very far away,” Prum Kim Thai explained. “There are districts that cannot be reached by truck.”
Meanwhile, provincial election commission staff on Thursday afternoon were sorting through stacks of yellow observer identification cards and writing down names, organizations and numbers.
The commission has received 3,385 names from 10 NGOs for the 578 polling places.
But only four observers are allowed in each of the 578 polling places at a time, Kompong Speu election staff said. That’s a maximum of 2,312 at any given moment.
“There will be a problem with the surplus observers,” one worker remarked.
The internationally credible Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel) and the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Coffel) have submitted 188 names.
The Buddhist Relief Association, which has suspected links to the military, has submitted 1,644 names. And each of the 39 political parties are allowed one person per polling station.
National Election Committee members have expressed concern that some of the lesser-known NGOs providing observers may have links to the ruling party. And the international community has expressed concern that Comfrel and Coffel observers will get crowded out of the polling stations by observers with dubious accreditation.
Provincial election workers said NGOs who have registered more than one person per polling place will likely have the surplus accreditation revoked. “It will just be difficult to find a place to stand,” Prum Kim Thai said.