Candidate registration for Cambodia’s first-ever local elections appeared to have begun Sunday without any serious hitches, officials from the government and political parties reported Sunday afternoon.
“By some reports, the job is going smoothly. There seem to have been no problems, but let’s wait until tomorrow, when officials start going through the documents,” said Leng Sochea, National Election Committee Director of Public Information from Kompong Cham.
“I have not seen any problems this morning. We are doing the job, following the instructions of the NEC and the legal process,” Pailin Commune Election Council Chief Mei Makk said.
Officials from the Sam Rainsy Party as late as Friday were warning the process could be marred by violence, or confusion over last-minute directives issued by the election committee to rectify controversial aspects of the law.
Diplomats, donors, and election monitors had complained about provisions in the election law that requires a candidate to prove his or her citizenship and literacy, and a provision that would have disqualified entire slates of party candidates if only one candidate withdrew or was disqualified.
With only nine days to go before candidate registration began, the NEC “reinterpreted” the law and sent new directives that stated entire slates could not be dropped if one candidate withdrew or was disqualified.
By and large, the process went well Sunday and the national committee deserved praise, Sam Rainsy Party Secretary General Eng Chhay Eang said.
“Nothing happened this morning in either Phnom Penh or the provinces. I had a very little technical problem, but it was solved very well,” Eng Chhay Eang said.
On Sunday afternoon, Sam Rainsy issued a news release claiming Sam Rainsy Party officials in “remote communes” were threatened with violence unless they withdrew. The party listed threats in the following provinces: Kompong Cham (eight communes), Kompong Thom (2), Koh Kong (1), Kampot (2), Takeo (2), Battambang (4), Pailin (1), Preah Vihear (4), Prey Veng (2).
As of Sunday afternoon, the Sam Rainsy Party had sent 60 percent of its candidates to register, and all of them had been accepted, Eng Chhay Eang said.
Although it was still early in the process, Sunday’s relative quiet was a good omen, Leng Sochea said.
“I think the job will go well,” he said.