NEC Says Japan, EU to Aid Election Reforms

A spokesman for the newly reconstituted National Election Committee (NEC) said Friday that Japan and the European Union (E.U.) have agreed to send experts to Cambodia next month to look for ways to improve the country’s flawed voter lists and to better educate voters.

Hang Puthea, the new spokesman for the NEC, made the announcement after the committee’s joint meeting with the ambassadors of both delegations, which are already helping Cambodia improve its much-criticized electoral system. 

“Japan and the European Union said that they would send experts to Cambodia to conduct additional studies,” he said. “What we want to get started on is educating voters and making a new voter list.”

As the former head of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, Mr. Puthea has been highly critical of the 2013 national election, putting most of the blame on a voter list that was filled with ghost names, faulty spellings and personal data, and which inexplicably omitted many past voters.

Mr. Puthea said it would also be among the NEC’s priorities to educate people on the new voter registration process, which will involve taking fingerprints.

“We haven’t yet set the schedule for making the new voter list, but we are preparing an action plan to set the electoral calendar,” he said.

Upon leaving Friday’s meeting, E.U. Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain called the talks “constructive.” He said that the E.U. “might support and contribute to the electoral reform process,” but made no mention of sending more experts next month.

Japanese Ambassador Yuji Ku­mamaru was also positive about the meeting but likewise did not elaborate.

Both Japan and the E.U. have already been involved in the country’s electoral reforms.

In January, E.U. experts advised the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP on various ways of improving future voter lists. In December, Japan presented their findings from a past study of the electoral system to both parties.

In large part because of the voter list, Cambodia’s 2013 election was seen by some observers and election experts as the country’s worst in two decades. A reconstituted NEC, long viewed as a tool of the ruling party, was one of the opposition’s main demands in exchange for ending the parliamentary boycott it started following the vote’s disputed results.

The parties agreed to install Mr. Puthea as the new NEC’s ninth and “neutral” member, there to break any ties between the four members each chosen by the ruling and opposition parties.

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