Voter Registration for Commune Elections Ends Today

Voter registration for the April 2007 commune elections officially ends today, after the National Elec­tion Committee extended the 20-day registration period, which was to conclude Friday, by four days.

But the Sam Rainsy Party and independent voting monitors say the extra days have not been enough, and are calling on the NEC for another extension to complete the process.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the government-appointed NEC, said an extension was granted partly because some commune offices have been open fewer hours than required during the registration period. Rains have also made travel to commune offices difficult, and more new voters have turned out than the NEC anticipated, he added.

As of Oct 20, 898,410 new voters had been registered, according to the NEC.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elec­tions, acknowledged that the four-day extension helped to register new voters. But he added that there are still many voters who have not corrected mistakes in their personal information, meaning they may be unable to vote come the election.

In a letter to the NEC dated Oct 20, the Poipet commune council in Banteay Meanchey province re­quested an extension of their registration period to Oct 30 to accommodate the commune’s 60,000 eligible voters. The commune is headed by an SRP official.

SRP leader Sam Rainsy requested extensions in 147 of the country’s largest communes in a Monday letter to the NEC. He estimated that 20,000 voters still need to be registered in Poipet alone.

Sam Rainsy claimed in the letter that victims of land-grabbing and villagers evicted from Phnom Penh and currently living at relocation sites are being denied residency documents from commune officials, which they need to register. The SRP won six of the 12 parliamentary seats in Phnom Penh in the national elections of 2003.

Tep Nytha said Monday evening that there is no time for another extension.

“I think one more day…will be enough,” he said.

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