Oun Kong has a big job to do, very little time to do it in and a bit of a problem.
The chairman of the Kandal Provincial Election Commission has organized 190 teams to begin registering voters on Monday throughout the province’s 1,093 registration sites. But as of Wednesday, he had only 171 of the 190 kits he needs.
“It will be more difficult when we start registration if we don’t have 19 more kits,” Oun Kong told visitors from the European Union on Wednesday.
In the last week before Monday’s start of voter registration, election commissions throughout the country have been scrambling to complete training and get the materials they need to start on time. Still, the EU teams who spent Wednesday inspecting their progress said the commissions will be ready Monday.
“Technically, there are always going to be some problems, but I think it’s going to be OK in the end,” said Paul Guerin, who is in charge of the EU’s registration training program, part of the group’s $11.6 million contribution to the elections.
On Monday, 2,005 mobile registration teams of five people each are to begin logging eligible voters’ vital statistics. They will stay in one place for two to three days before moving on to a new site, eventually covering the roughly 12,000 registration centers by June 15.
Delayed three weeks from its original date, the registration process has been plagued with technical glitches, including the late arrival of the training and registration kits from the EU.
The kits include registration forms, laminating material for voter identification cards, fingerprinting sets and Polaroid cameras.
The last 1,000 of the kits arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, a day late, according to an EU spokeswoman who said Thursday they had already been shipped to the provinces where they are needed.
In addition, Guerin said the EU has had to construct 200 “supplementary kits,” made by recycling some of the cameras and forms from the training kits, after it became clear there would not be enough ready-made kits.
Guerin said Thursday that the shortfall problem has been solved, and the areas that need more kits will get them in time.
Still, on Wednesday it was apparent it would be a race to the wire to have all the teams trained and equipped by Monday.
A visit later Wednesday to Takeo province revealed that one more registration kit was needed there. The provincial election chief said he had asked the National Election Committee for another, but it had not yet arrived.
And in Kandal, Oun Kong said the provincial registration teams’ training would continue through today, the last working day before registration.
At a pagoda at Tonle Bati, schoolteacher Has Sarith was instructing two registration teams in the use of the camera. A teacher on one month’s leave from the nearby Serei Pheap Secondary School, Has Sarith said he is happy to play a small part in the democratic process.
“I want everyone to know about their duty,” he said Wednesday. “When they get the knowledge here, they will use it to help people to vote in the election, because the election is the duty of all citizens.”