Voters have voiced concerns that one day is not long enough for everyone to vote.
“I fear such a short time will not allow everyone to vote for the political party they like,” an art shop owner in central Phnom Penh said Wednesday. “That would be a big loss.”
Polling stations are scheduled to be open between 7 am and 4 pm Sunday.
The shop owner’s husband expressed fears that polling station chiefs might select who was allowed to vote first, which could exclude some people from voting if their turn didn’t come until after 4 pm. “People could then get very angry,” he said.
Taxi driver Sun San expressed similar worries. On the first of five days of voting during the 1993 election, his child was taken severely ill, he said Wednesday, adding that he could not make it to the polling station that day.
“If the same thing happened again this year I simply would not be able to vote,” he said.
The issue of time squeezing Sunday’s vote has come to the attention of Glenys Kinnock, the European Union’s special representative, who arrived in Cambodia on Monday.
“It certainly struck me as being a short time compared to elections in other countries,” Kinnock said at a press conference Tuesday.
Kinnock has been an election monitor in South Africa, Nicaragua, Mozambique and Namibia. She said she would learn more about the issue and how it would affect Cambodian voters, especially those who have to travel distances to the polls. But she said it was unlikely hours would be extended.
In the 1993 election, voting took place over five days. Forty-six percent of all voters voted on the first day at the 1600 (200 mobile) polling stations.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, NEC Vice President Kassie Neou defended the election schedule. He pointed to NEC policy, included in the NEC Polling Station Commission Manual, which states “any voter who is in the polling station or in the line at 4 pm will be allowed to vote.”
A ticket will be issued to voters still in line at 4 pm to regulate this, an NEC logistics adviser added, implying that stations could remain open well into the night if necessary.
Each polling station has a staff of five. The latest NEC estimate is that it will take one minute for the five to process one voter, according to Kassie Neou.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Smith and Kimsan Chantara)