Responding to low voter registration turnout, the National Election Committee on Tuesday decided to extend registration throughout the country for two to five days, an NEC official said.
The number of days will vary according to the commune and its situation, said Khan Keomono, chief of the committee’s Information Office.
Registration was originally set at 30 days, ending Saturday. But as the deadline nears, registration numbers continue to lag far behind the NEC’s target.
As of Monday 898,845 new voters had registered, NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said. The NEC estimates that a total of 1,559,000 people are newly eligible to register.
Khan Keomono said 1,165 communes will have two extra days, 130 will have three days, 92 four days and 234 five days.
Observers have repeatedly called for an extension, saying citizens and commune officials alike are unfamiliar with new registration procedures. Critics also claim political bias has tainted the process.
Under the current registration process, people who voted in the 2002 commune elections are automatically registered for this year’s July 27 legislative polls. New voters—people who recently turned 18, failed to vote last year or moved residences—must register with their commune clerk.
On Tuesday, Koul Panha, president of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, applauded the extension of registration but renewed his call for mobile registration offices to reach people in remote areas.
The NEC is not considering this approach, Leng Sochea said. Commune officials are responsible for encouraging and helping everyone in their jurisdiction to register, he said.
The registration extension still falls short of what many observers had requested. The US-based National Democratic Institute last week said registration should be extended by 10 to 15 days.
And in a monitoring report released Monday, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights called for a two-week extension of registration, accompanied by increased radio and television promotion of registration.
The center’s monitors visited 315 registration centers in 12 provinces or municipalities. Based on those visits, the center “is concerned that registration procedures are routinely not being followed, registration information is selectively distributed, fraud and intimidation continue openly and with impunity in numerous locations, and the complaints process is neither trusted nor well understood,” the report concluded.
Meanwhile, a woman who was denied the right to register by an NEC hearing last month appealed to the Constitutional Council on Tuesday, which overturned the NEC’s decision.
Pov Sorphan voted in her native province of Prey Veng in 1998 and 2002 but wishes to vote in Phnom Penh this year. The Council ruled that her previous voting passes were adequate documentation to register her in the capital.
(Additional reporting by Molly Ball)