kompong cham/kratie provinces – Kompong Cham saw a roughly 60 percent turnout Sunday among the more than 1 million registered voters in the province’s 173 communes, said Srey Sopheak, head of administration at the Provincial Election Committee.
This marked a considerable decline on the more than 80 percent voter turnout for Cambodia’s first commune elections in 2002, according to Sok Chhin, the committee’s deputy director.
In Kompong Cham district’s Veal Vong commune, Ly Ratya, a Committee for Free and Fair Elections monitor, said the decrease was noticeable.
“Generally things are going very well but many people do not come to the polling station,” she said. “I think people might be busy at the market.”
Another factor keeping numbers down was likely the fact that many Kompong Cham residents are working as migrant laborers in Thailand or as garment workers in Phnom Penh, Ly Ratya said.
Srey Sopheak said the decrease could be due to the fact that some residents have moved out of the province and forgotten to cancel their voter registration. Other residents may have registered multiple times or did not have enough education about how the process works and failed to turn up to cast their votes, he said.
Comfrel Director Koul Panha said that around the country, some people had trouble with their ID cards or couldn’t immediately locate their name among the hundreds listed outside voting booths, and left without voting.
In Kratie province’s Kratie district Thor Truot, 70, was told she didn’t have the proper documents to vote in Rokar Kandal commune and said she was going home.
“I don’t know why the officials rejected me,” she said. “I am sad I will not be able to vote.”
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said by telephone Sunday afternoon that he wasn’t surprised that voters were not flocking to the polls.
“The NEC dramatically changed the registration procedure…which created confusion and a big hurdle for ordinary citizens,” he said.
Many people were not aware or could not fulfill all the new requirements to register, such as providing two photos of themselves, he added.
Confusion about the voting process had been orchestrated by those in power who feared the electorate would oust them, he said.
“People across the country want clean officials who won’t extort money from them or be accomplices in land-grabbing,” he added.
But for Eath Moeun, a CPP observer stationed at Toul Thmar school in Veal Vong commune, the real reason for the low turnout may be simpler: voter apathy. “Maybe voters just don’t care,” he said.