An independent election monitoring group has lodged a complaint with the National Election Committee on Thursday, charging that local government officials are illegally interfering in the voter registration process.
“Almost all areas have reported an overbearing presence and interference by commune officials and other local authorities, contrary to election regulations,” stated the complaint by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.
Since the beginning of the registration period two weeks ago, opposition leaders have complained the CPP-dominated local government ranks are intimidating voters or preventing opponents from registering.
Comfrel spokesman Sok Kheun said observers in almost all provinces have spotted village and commune officials inside registration stations, despite a regulation banning anyone from entering except to register.
NEC spokesman Leng Sochea, however, said in many cases the officials are acting as elections officials or are CPP party observers on leave from their jobs as village or commune officials.
He cited a recent case where observers complained a commune chief was inside the registration center. But the man had resigned to take a job with the commune election commission.
“It is correct according to the law,” Leng Sochea said. “However, the other party agents in the area still regard this man as the commune chief.” He said some villagers might be intimidated by seeing their longtime village chief serving as an elections official.
In some cases, he said, the CPP observers are on temporary leave from their jobs with local government and can return later.
Sok Kheun, however, rejected Leng Sochea’s explanation, saying the officials spotted by Comfrel are still serving in local government roles.
The CPP, along with Reastr Niyum and the Buddhist Liberal Party, also came under fire for allegedly attempting to manipulate the registration process by transporting prospective voters to other provinces.
In one such alleged incident May 20, Comfrel claimed, the Reastr Niyum party transported people from Phnom Penh to register in Pursat province.
Reastr Niyum Secretary-General Pou Sothirak said Thursday he was unaware of any such case, adding it was not party policy to take people elsewhere to vote.
In another case, Comfrel complained that “arbitrary interference” by the governor of Preah Vihear province has resulted in their observers being denied accreditation for the province.
But Leng Sochea deflected the complaint, saying it was a “misunderstanding,” that had been ironed out by the NEC already.
As for other violations, Leng Sochea said some registration stations made mistakes because they did not know NEC policy. But Comfrel called on the NEC to remedy the problems by making better use of the media.