Opposition Claims Bias in Poll Registration

Opposition politicians claimed Monday that commune officials in several areas were selectively registering only CPP-loyal people to vote in upcoming elections.

Reports from the first day of voter registration indicated that the process went fairly smoothly, de­spite fears that the registration teams would not have enough equipment.

Visits to three polling places in area provinces show­ed 80 to 100 people registering at each on Mon­day, with waits ranging from 15 minutes to about two hours.

Outspoken politician Sam Rain­sy accused registration teams of screening out anyone not ac­com­panied by a CPP es­cort and vowed to file a complaint with the Na­tional Election Committee.

“Registration officials are allowing prospective voters to register only if each is accompanied by the ‘group leader’ of a CPP cell,” Sam Rainsy said Monday. “This means that only those who have promised to vote for the CPP are being allowed to register.”

Funcinpec parliamentarian Ahmad Yahya said Monday that he saw a woman without any Cambodian identification papers vouched for by a single CPP official, even though electoral rules state that anyone without a valid ID must have two witnesses.

NEC General Secretary Im Suorsdei said he had heard no such reports, but promised an in­vestigation if any party filed a complaint.

Many prospective voters interviewed Monday said that they were encouraged to come register by their commune or village leaders.

In Kandal pro­vince’s Srok Thom village, deputy village chief Orm Sarom cheerfully admitted he only told people he knew were CPP supporters about the registration.

“I did not call anyone who has a different party line,” he said. “I informed only the people who have my party registration and applications be­cause I am afraid if I talk to others, they would ac­cuse me of forcing them to vote for the CPP.”

However, he said, most people in the village already knew about the registration from national radio.

In Pot Sor commune, Takeo pro­vince, Larch Sim, 45, said she had heard about the election registration on the radio, but probably would not have come if her village chief had not encouraged her to do so.

Another woman in Takeo, a fruit vendor, said she and her neighbors had not been told ab­out the registration.

“They don’t seem to care much about us,” she said, adding that before last July’s fighting she had a Funcinpec signboard on her gate.

While it is illegal to prevent anyone from registering because of their political affiliation, EU elections expert Michael Mead­ow­croft said Mon­day that voter registration drives which recruit voters and even give them rides to registration centers are legitimate democratic tactics in countries around the world. (Re­porting by Van Roeun, Kim­san Chantara and Kay John­son)

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