The leader of one of Cambodia’s top election monitors has given a mixed review of the National Election Committee’s new standards for both voter registration and voting in next year’s general elections.
“There are good points and there are bad points in the NEC’s procedure,” said Koul Panha, president of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.
The NEC’s plans to use voter lists from this year’s commune council elections and update them during the new registration period could confuse people if the NEC and election monitors don’t take enough time to educate voters, Koul Panha said.
There are other concerns, as well. Comfrel found at least 600 cases of foreigners being allowed to register to vote in commune elections, Koul Panha said, meaning officials will have to comb the old list for irregularities.
The NEC should create two different registration committees to speed the process, since it has only 29 days to log the high number of Cambodian voters.
A permanent and a mobile committee—the latter made of workers in districts to cut down on travel—should bring the process closer to the people, Koul Panha said.
The committee also should consider setting up registration centers close to hospitals and jails to register eligible voters who otherwise cannot travel, the Comfrel president said.
Other groups have been more harsh in their criticism.
A seminar of political activists in Phnom Penh last Friday called on the NEC to prevent commune council election officials from doing the same job in the general elections, saying fraud committed during the earlier ballot will only be repeated next year.
The final voting lists won’t be created until Jan 15, so political parties and election monitors will have plenty of time to look into irregularities, NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said.
Despite Koul Panha’s objections, the role of keeping the public informed lies with the media, not the election committee, he added.
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)