NEC Extends Deadline for Registration

The National Election Com­mittee Wednesday added three more days to the voter registration period, which was to have ended today.

That means voters who have not yet registered for the 2002 commune council elections will until Sunday to do so, NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said.

The extension applies to stations that did not open on time at the start of the registration period, and to those who still have voters to register, NEC Chairman Chheng Phon said.

Stations that have completed their work can shut down after today, he said.

The decision came amid mounting registration complaints. Elec­tion observers, opposition party members and union activists have criticized the NEC for numerous problems, from a lack of materials to poor scheduling and inflexible registration officials. Prime Minister Hun Sen Tuesday called for the registration to be extended.

Despite the problems, nearly 72 percent of eligible voters had managed to register through Tues­day,  a total of 4,477,883 out of 6,251,832 potential voters, officials reported.

Kung Hun Thearith, assistant to Fun­­cinpec secretary-general Prince Norodom Sirivudh, said the ex­tension should boost that number.

“This is a good thing. It gives the people more time. Maybe we will be able to get up above 80 percent,” Kung Hun Thearith said.

The Sam Rainsy Party, however, announced that it will continue with plans for a demonstration for an even longer registration ex­ten­sion at 8 am today, starting in front of the National Assembly and marching to NEC headquarters.

“We want an extension for one month, not three days. We are optimistic that Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he supports an extension. This is an encouragement to us,” Sam Rainsy Party Chief of Cabinet Phi Thach said.

Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said he refused the Sam Rainsy Party a march permit be­cause demonstrations are inap­pro­­priate during the visit of Lao Prime Minister Bounnhang Vora­chith, who arrived in Phnom Penh Wednes­­day.

“If registration was at 20 or 30 percent, I could see their point, and I might even march with them. But more than 70 percent is pretty good,” the governor said.

The Sam Rainsy Party also complained Wednesday that police were improperly confiscating leaflets that list the election schedule and urge people to register.

“These are not election materials; they are civic education,” Phi Thach said.

In announcing its decision, the NEC reminded political parties that their lists of candidates must be filed with the appropriate commune election office in a single three-day period: Oct 14 to Oct 16.

(Reporting by Jody McPhillips, Saing Soenthrith and Lor Chan­dara)


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