Officials at both the National Election Committee and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections said Thursday that only one-quarter of Cambodia’s eligible voters have registered for February’s commune elections.
“We estimate nearly 25 percent from the beginning of registration [on July 21] until Aug 1. We will try our best to get to 60 or 70 percent,” NEC Secretary-General Im Suosdey said.
Koul Panha, director of Comfrel, said Comfrel’s observers in Banteay Meanchey, Kompong Speu, Preah Vihear, Prey Veng, Ratanakkiri and Takeo provinces estimated that 579,000 people, or 26 percent of eligible voters, registered in those provinces from July 21 to July 30.
“We are still concerned about the low turnout. I want to ask people why they are reluctant to register. Maybe they aren’t confident it will be a free and fair election,” he said.
Another NEC official said registration turnout is low in most provinces. But, he added, Koh Kong province reported Thursday that 40 percent of eligible voters have registered.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, speaking Thursday after registering at Wat Prey Spov in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, said he regretted that election information and materials did not arrive on time in remote areas.
“The process is going well until now. I will discuss it with Prime Minister Hun Sen to make it go smoothly,” the prince said.
Asked about opposition party leader Sam Rainsy’s request that NEC President Chheng Phon appear before the National Assembly to answer questions about the registration process, the prince said the assembly is on vacation and Sam Rainsy was traveling abroad during the last session.
When asked about Sam Rainsy’s threat to protest the election if less than 80 percent of voters are registered, the prince reminded listeners that Sam Rainsy, then a Funcinpec member, urged the royalist party not to join the 1993 national elections.