Voter Registration Ends With a Few Glitches

The National Election Com­mittee Tuesday announced a peaceful but slightly flawed end to the voter registration process, with three-quarters of the estimated total number of new voters registered.
NEC Chairman Im Suosdey said 1,164,751 new voters registered over the monthlong period—75 percent of the 1,559,000 people the NEC had estimated were eligible. The NEC has said that nearly 95 percent of the total eligible voters in Cambodia are registered to vote for the July national elections.
On the whole, the chairman lauded the process, which was dif­ferent from previous years, and he praised government ministries and NGOs for helping it along. But he admitted there were some snags. “In some cases, commune council [members] or commune clerks were not present to register the voters because they were simultaneously responsible for their duties as authorities,” he said.
Im Suosdey also admitted that commune council members and clerks in some areas were too strict in the documents they required would-be voters to present or made it difficult for people to acquire those documents.
He also said many monks were prevented from registering. Monks are allowed to vote by law but prohibited from voting by patriarchal decree.
He said there were technical difficulties as well, such as communes that lacked photographic equipment to make ID cards.
Observers of the process gave differing assessments. Hang Puthea, president of the Neutral, Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, criticized the lack of education efforts by the NEC but said the process was generally conducted in good faith.
Koul Panha, president of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, was more critical, saying registration should have lasted still longer. The NEC extended the process from its original 30 days by two to five days more, depending on the commune.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights was harshest, saying that based on its monitoring there was a pattern of “violence, intimidation and irregularities—and the impunity that shrouds each,” and that under such conditions the upcoming polls could not be considered free or fair.

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