The National Election Committee’s recently concluded voter registration for the upcoming commune elections was plagued with misconduct both large and small, according to a preliminary audit conducted by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) and released yesterday.
“The clerks did not respect the opening and closing times of the registration offices…some did not come to work…clerks registered voters without the presence of the voters…they registered voters without documents,” Comfrel states in the report.
Among the most egregious cases of misconduct uncovered in the survey are those relating to party favoritism.
“Though it is illegal to use broadcasting…the NEC allowed the CPP to use the radio and television during registration,” the report notes. In at least two instances, CPP headquarters were used as registration centers.
At a Comfrel conference held yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Imperial Garden Villa, members of the opposition party echoed the organization’s findings, noting that they too had observed problems with the registration process.
“The NEC does not reform anything from year to year,” SRP lawmaker Kuy Bunroeun said, accusing the organization of deleting voter names and of allowing Vietnamese nationals to register for the election.
Human Rights Party representative Ouk Suy said problems with the registration process meant that the election results could not be considered accurate.
“The registration and reviewing of the voters’ names in 2011 was not fair, and I cannot accept it. I think that the election in Cambodia will not be free and fair,” he said.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha brushed aside the criticism, noting that complaints related to the voter list that were investigated thus far by the NEC have proved unfounded.
“Comfrel reported that about 100 people in Anlong Veng were not allowed to register, and it was not right. There are 75 who were allowed to register on Oct 18. Why is Comfrel saying that? It is not true,” he said.
He also slammed criticisms made by opposition parties that foreigners were permitted to register.
“We know that [complaint]. It is not new. We registered only those who had complete Khmer citizen IDs,” Mr Nytha said.
Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, said the organization was also undertaking an audit of the voter list complied during the month-and-a-half registration process.
“We have already found a lot of inaccuracies in the voter list,” said Mr Panha, adding that he feared the mistakes could result in the disenfranchisement of numerous voters come election day.
Though it is too early in the audit to know what percentage of the voter list could be inaccurate, problems with the voter list during the last national election wound up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters, Mr Panha claimed. “In 2008, around 400,000 people were unable to find their names listed properly on the voter list and were unable to cast their ballots,” he said.
Mr Panha urged voters to check their names and file complaints with the election committee if there are inaccuracies.
“If people think it’s not necessary, if they don’t take the time to challenge it, nothing will change. Even if [the NEC] is not able to fix it, it shows the problem exists,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Abby Seiff)