Questions Raised Over Forms Used for Voters With No ID

Of the nearly 800,000 forms issued to voters without identification for use in the July 28 election, about 270,000 were issued between the end of the voter registration period and the election itself, raising concerns among observers they could have been used fraudulently.

According to National Election Committee (NEC) Secretary-General Tep Nytha, about 480,000 new Identity Certificates for Elections (ICE) forms were issued during the registration period in late 2012, while a further 270,000 were issued in the lead-up to the election.

But Laura Thornton, country director of Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), said it seemed highly unlikely that so many people had misplaced their identification papers and needed an ICE form as a replacement.

It is important “to go back to the real problems that we saw leading up to the election, which is disenfranchisement and use of the ICE—people who were not allowed to vote and people who shouldn’t be voting but did, using the ICE,” she said.

Ms. Thornton said the NDI had made a number of requests to the NEC to have access to the number of ICEs issued before the election, but had been repeatedly told that the request was “on hold.” She also said the number of people who allegedly lost their IDs was unfathomable.

“The last number I heard was 500,000 and counting…. The only reason that could happen is if there was a tsunami or natural disaster—it’s implausible. This is a problem of disenfranchisement, and the only way to resolve disenfranchisement is unfortunately through re-polling.”

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cam­bo­dia, said the ICE issue “is very significant, and the process of issuing it was not transparent,” be­cause there appears to be no re­c­ord of who received the ICEs and for what reasons.

That coupled with the 1 million ICE forms issued for the June 6, 2012, commune election means there is a great concern that the glut of forms could be used for fraudulent purposes.

“In 93 percent of polling stations we saw people using ICE forms…it’s very significant. And it’s not realistic because Cambodia has not experienced any major natural disaster like a storm, earthquake or tsunami, so to consider such a huge number of people losing their ID is very questionable,” Mr. Kol said.

Considering that there are only about 200,000 votes between the ruling CPP and the opposition CNRP, the fact there were so many ICE forms in the system could have potentially swung the election.

Mr. Nytha said Thursday that he was aware of the “accusations” being made against the NEC, but that he did not believe the ICE forms had been used improperly.

“But the commune election committees, if they found the ICEs being used were not legal, they would not allow those people to vote because they stamp on it.

“The NEC knows they accuse us of issuing the wrong person an ICE form to vote. We accept there were some issued illegally. But during the election itself, the polling station officer had to examine if it was right. If wrong, they would reject the person to vote.”

(Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)

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