Report: New Voter Registration Figures Low

The recently completed pro­cess of registering Cambodians to vote in the July elections was worse than in previous elections, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections concluded in a report issued Wednesday.

Approximately 400,000 people were eligible but did not register, the report said—most of them youths, monks and the poor, who suffered as a result of the registration procedures’ complexities and irregularities in their implementation across the country.

According to the National Election Committee, 93 percent of the total eligible citizens are registered to vote in the upcoming polls, but just 75 percent of the estimated newly eligible registered—people who just turned 18, moved in the past year or didn’t vote in the past.

The registration rate for new voters for this election is down 8 percent from last year’s commune elections and 23 percent from the previous national elections in 1998, the report states.

“Comfrel is disappointed with the slow registration process, the low turnout of newly eligible voters and the increase of threats, intimidation and irregularities compared with the previous voter registration period,” the report states.

NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said the Comfrel report was irresponsible because it failed to take into account factors such as people dying and moving.

“Comfrel’s calculations are different from the NEC’s calculations; Comfrel’s calculations are not scientific,” Leng Sochea said.

The Comfrel report claims that not enough pre-trial detainees—those charged with a crime and imprisoned pending trial, but not yet convicted—and hospital patients were given the opportunity to register.

Both groups are eligible but have obvious logistical difficulties registering. Comfrel’s report says that according to the group’s observers, very few communes took the initiative to visit these people to put them on voter lists.

The report also noted that monks were greatly discouraged from registering. While Cambo­dia’s two Buddhist patriarchs have directed monks not to vote, they are legally eligible. But the religious interdiction led many local officials to refuse to register clergy members, the report stated. Alternately, head monks often refused to certify the residency of the monks living in their pagodas.

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