Turnout for voter registration has been lower than expected, with just more than 200,000 new voters adding their names to vote lists, officials said over the weekend.
More than one week into the month-long registration session, the latest National Election Committee count of newly registered voters stands at more than 200,000, NEC General-Secretary Tep Nitha said on Sunday.
Committee for Free and Fair Elections President Koul Panha on Sunday called the new statistics troubling. “I am very concerned because less people have registered, which means people are less informed about the general election [than they were about last year’s commune elections], and that commune officials are not well-enough trained,” he said.
More than 5 million citizens took part in February’s commune election, and those voters have automatically been registered for this July’s scheduled election, according to the election law passed last year by the National Assembly.
Koul Panha called on the NEC to take measures against commune councilors who have prevented monks from registering, in accordance with Buddhist elder Tep Vong’s prohibition.
The law states that officials who prevent eligible voters from registering should be fired, he said, and that anyone who uses violence to these ends should be fined between 2 million riel and 25 million riel.
“The NEC has to intervene in this problem,” Koul Panha said. “They must punish people who ban monks from registering.”
The NEC on Wednesday issued a directive asking all commune officials to facilitate the registration process for monks; any officers failing in this duty are to be punished, Tep Nitha said.
Comfrel also recommended the NEC encourage potential voters to register using better awareness campaigns, and called on the Ministry of Interior to intervene in cases where officials are failing in their duties.
Tep Nitha refuted the suggestion that the low registration turn-out is due to mistakes by the NEC. Having only one commune official in each station to register voters is slowing the process, he said.