The National Election Committee lacks the time to investigate the “enormous” number of complaints it has received and will begin taking measures to lighten its load, panel officials said Sunday.
NEC officials were split over why so many people have filed the complaints with the national board instead of filing with local election authorities, as called for by electoral law procedures.
They said they would take action to educate voters and political parties before the official campaign period begins June 25, when they expect the number of complaints to rise sharply.
Im Suorsdei, general secretary of the NEC, said people misunderstand the role of the NEC in investigating complaints.
He said complaints should first be filed with local election authorities: “If the communal election commission can’t resolve it, we send it to the provincial election commission.”
If provincial election authorities cannot resolve a complaint, it is forwarded to the NEC, he said.
But one NEC member said it was not surprising that political parties were filing with the NEC rather than the local authorities. “We understand why they want to file with us,” said the NEC member, who asked not to be named. “People don’t trust the provincial and communal election commissions.”
While he wouldn’t elaborate on possible problems between local election officials and potential voters, he said people may not be “comfortable” with filing a complaint locally, where intimidation is most likely to occur.
Many of the complaints center on alleged registration harassment and accusations that non-citizens have been allowed to register.
Before June 25, the NEC is to conduct a series of information sessions with political parties and media representatives to explain the proper procedure for filing complaints, Im Suorsdei said.
The NEC source said his panel doesn’t have enough time to look into each complaint properly. Officials said they did not know how many complaints had been filed, but the NEC source described the figure as “enormous.”
He noted that the NEC is doing the work of the communal and provincial election bodies, and the flood of complaints needs to be directed to the lower election authorities before campaigning begins. “With our limited resources and manpower, we do the best we can at this moment.”
For example, he said, the NEC will remind parties and candidates not to intimidate voters or use contemptuous language.
Under a CPP membership drive that has drawn charges of intimidation from villagers, commune and village leaders have been asking potential voters to affix thumbprints to documents pledging their loyalty to the party.
The NEC source said complaints have failed to yield “any hard evidence,” but the body will remain “vigilant on the issue.”
And CPP officials in two provinces last week complained that opposition politician Sam Rainsy called certain government officials “yuon puppets.”
Leng Sochea, NEC spokesman, said last week the NEC would rather remind all parties not to use contemptuous language than take the potentially controversial step of censuring Sam Rainsy.