The National Election Committee launched its annual registration of eligible voters at a press conference on Thursday. The press conference quickly evolved into a forum where political activists called for tougher regulations of the NEC itself.
“This is the annual registration of all eligible voters. We will make better progress than last time. Our expectation is nearly 7 million people,” NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said.
In the past, the NEC has been accused of various irregularities such as the registering of phantom voters.
On Thursday, activists focused on the past appointment of NEC officials to government posts as evidence the body is vulnerable to political influence.
“Whenever any NEC member would finish their term with the NEC, they quickly acquire a major political position in the government,” former NEC trainer Thao Veasna said at the event. “This looks ill and showed the National Election Committee is partisan.”
Thao Veasna said new legislation should ban NEC members in the future from taking posts as soon as they leave the NEC.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Comfrel said just such a law has been suggested by his election monitoring body.
He added that all former NEC members, except aging and retired former chairman Chheng Phong, were given major posts after leaving the NEC. He said that one former deputy chairman, Nger Chhay Leang, was appointed Commerce Ministry secretary of state while still holding his NEC position.
Nger Chhay Leang said by phone Thursday that he did his job at the NEC neutrally and correctly, without being influenced by political parties. “If you want to see if I did anything wrong, please go and check,” he said. He said that he resigned from his NEC position as soon as his appointment to the Ministry of Commerce was confirmed by the National Assembly.
Replying to Thao Veasna’s criticisms, NEC Secretary General Tep Nitha said that former members got posts only after they finished their work.
“If [we] don’t let them work, they have nothing to eat,” he said.