Voters’ Travel Costs To Be Paid by Their Parties for

Political parties will have to cover all expenses incurred by voters from their own parties to come to polling stations for the Jan 22 Senate elections, a National Election Commit­tee official said on Monday.

NEC spokesman Leng Sochea stress­ed that reimbursing party-affiliated commune-council members for travel expenses does not constitute vote-buying.

“Each political party has the right to pay its supporters. The parents pay money to their children—this is the same, no problem. But if they pay money to the others’ children, that is a problem,” he said, adding that the NEC has consulted with all par­ticipating parties on the issue.

Several Funcinpec and Sam Rain­sy Party officials said the payments would not put pressure on voters, add­ing that without reimbursement voters might not be able to reach dis­tant polling stations.

Each province will have three or few­er voting places, and some in­cluding Mondolkiri, Stung Treng and Oddar Meanchey, have only one each, according to the NEC.

Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-Gen­­eral Ung Huot said his party would dispatch party members on Jan 21 to transport commune councilors the next day. “Without providing them transportation, they cannot come to vote,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party Acting Presi­dent Kong Korm said opposition Senate candidates had to facilitate vo­­ters’ travel, or many could not vote.

But in genuine democratic elections, this is unacceptable, said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

“For the principle of elections, direct or indirect, to pay the voters is an irregularity,” he said. He suggested that the government and donors  declined to cover these expenses because of the way the elections are being run and be­cause of the Senate’s role, which some obser­vers say is purely per­functory.

“The government says [the Sen­ate] is just advisory—maybe they are not ready to invest in the Senate election,” he said.

Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Kak II commune chief Vann Sareth said he would vote the same whether or not his transport was paid for. “I am CPP so I vote CPP,” he said.

. “Money is a small issue.”


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