The National Election Committee (NEC) has printed more than 2.5 million more ballot papers than there are voters registered for July’s national election, raising fears among the opposition that fraud could take place during the vote.
The NEC on Wednesday unveiled the ballot papers at a privately owned printing firm in Tuol Kok district that is contracted to produce a total of 12,307,150 ballot papers for the national election on July 28, some 2,631,697 more than the total number of people on the national voter list. Only 9,675,453 Cambodians are eligible to vote in the elction.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said there was nothing untoward about the extra ballots and that roughly the same amount had been printed during the previous election in 2008.
“We divide the reserve ballots between communes and provincial election committees—this is the formula we have practiced for four successive mandates already in order to supply enough ballots in case of spoiled ones,” he said.
“We have spent $2 million on printing the ballot papers for this national election,” Mr. Nytha said, before adding that a total of 11,082,400 ballots papers will be sent to polling stations, while 1,224,750 reserve ballots will be sent to provincial election committees, who will distribute them in the event that ballots are spoiled.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said Wednesday that printing so many extra ballots could lead to voting fraud. He also appealed for international election observers to be extra vigilant about cheating at the polls.
“It is very concerning. We must be very cautious…because when they are left over, they just need to be ticked to commit voting fraud,” Mr. Sovann said.
The printed ballots on Wednesday were checked for quality purposes by the NEC before being boxed and transferred to a nearby warehouse for safekeeping and will be distributed to 19,009 polling stations around the country before July 28.
Printing of the ballot papers began May 25 and will be completed no later than July 20, though according to Hoeu Rong, director of the NEC’s executive department, the printing process is already 70 percent complete.