Registration Begins With Minor Problems

The first day of voter registration for the July elections was marked by confusion at some registration booths, said potential voters and government officials, with most problems arising over new identification requirements.

The registration process, which requires more proof of residency and more thorough identification checks than previous elections, is to end on Feb 15.

“This is a more complicated and time-consuming process,” one woman was overheard saying at a registration booth in Phnom Penh. The woman, who showed a registration clerk a residence book with a previous address listed, was rejected. The clerk said the woman would need official documentation showing she changed residency.

Phnom Penh police officer Pak Panny, who was registering on Friday, agreed that the registration process is now more complicated—a complaint repeated by Sam Rainsy Party registration monitor Vann Phally, who added he was worried people would become frustrated or tired of the process and would not register for the elections, scheduled to take place on July 27.

One potential voter, Sok Kheng, said he did not register on the first day because the registration process looked too slow and the clerks manning the registration booths “demanded many documents.”

Leng Sochea, spokesman for the National Election Committee, said on Friday that the first day of registration went smoothly, but conceded that some potential voters might have found the new procedures complicated.

However, in order to stop “foreigners from voting” in the elections, the safeguards—mainly the need for voters to show proof of age, nationality and residency—are necessary.

The NEC on Friday released a statement asking the Interior Ministry to instruct all commune councils to issue birth certificates for eligible voters showing that the individual is 18 years old, of Cam­bodian nationality and does not have a prison record or mental health problems.

One international election adviser agreed on Friday with Leng Sochea, saying that the registration process thus far has been going well. But the adviser said that with 1,621 communes throughout the country with registration booths, there will likely be some confusion.

“There will be some problems, but the NEC will take the appropriate measures,” the adviser said.

Although there is a more thorough documentation process at the registration booths, especially for people who change residency, the problem can be solved if the individual brings two people from his or her commune back to the registration booth to prove current residency, the adviser said.

It is still too early to provide figures on the number of people who have completed registration, Leng Sochea said.

(Additional reporting by David Kihara)


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