In apparent response to accusations of voter registration fraud in the 2008 national elections, the National Election Committee said yesterday that it was scrapping its old voter identification form to replace it before next year’s commune elections.
Speaking yesterday at a meeting with political parties in Phnom Penh, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said his organization would discontinue the widely criticized form 1018, an identification document issued by commune authorities to people without other forms of ID.
“We will not use form 1018 for the next election. It will be replaced by a new form. There were 200,000 1018 forms used in the 2008 national election, which is a small amount out of [the country’s] 5 million voters,” Mr Nytha said.
He added that voter registration and the subsequent review of the voter list would take place from Sept 1 to Dec 31.
He said the 2011 voter register would be based on 2005 legal procedures, but that the NEC would cooperate with the Interior Ministry in issuing new identification that will be harder to tamper with than the 1018.
The replacement “is better because it is more difficult to copy or cheat with,” he said, adding that 240,000 new forms would be available for issuance by commune chiefs.
Elections for the Senate election are to be held on Jan 29 and commune elections will take place on June 3, 2012, Mr Nytha said.
“In the past, discrepancies have happened [with form 1018]…. But we have already educated the local authorities about preventing election fraud.”
Form 1018 lists a person’s name, date of birth and bears a picture of its holder. It is issued and stamped by a commune chief.
The applicant must register for a 1018 form in the presence of a witness who can attest to his or her identity and address. The document can then be used to register to vote and also as ID on election day.
Following the national elections in July of 2008, the SRP claimed that invalid votes had been cast by people issued illegal 1018 forms by commune chiefs, 98 percent of whom were CPP members. In some cases, names and dates of birth were changed.
The SRP then asked people in possession of 1018 forms that had been tampered with to hand them in for $50 compensation.
Kim Chan, senior coordinator at the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that more stringent regulation of the forms’ issuance was important, not the form itself. He said Comfrel had been pressing the NEC to introduce new measures, as there had been problems in the use of the 1018 in the past.
Reached by telephone yesterday, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the 1018 form was not originally a bad idea but that weak regulation meant that it had not served its purpose well.
“The CPP was able to use the local authorities to cheat [in 2008], because no proper regulation was being applied,” he said, adding that better implementation and regulation of an ID card system would remove the need for the 1018 form and its replacement, which he said might as well be the 1018 form in new packaging.
“This is about being responsible according to the Constitution,” he said. “They could call the new form the 1021 but that won’t change anything. The problem is with loopholes that have been created to allow cheating to take place.”
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)