Commune officials and village chiefs will the week of July 2 begin trying to clear what some say may be half a million ghost voters from the voter list ahead of the 2008 national election, the National Election Committee said this week.
Commune councilors, clerks and village chiefs will begin examining local voter lists on June 25 to determine which registered voters have died, changed residence or appear on the lists more than once, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said. The results will then be submitted to the NEC, which will delete the verified ghost voters from the national list, he said.
Mar Sophal, monitoring chief for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said about 10 percent of the names on the voter list were “ghost voters,” based on a 2005 Comfrel study. This means there were at least 600,000 ghost voters among the approximately 6 million registered voters that year, officials said. Tep Nytha said there are in fact about half a million ghost voters, due to more people moving location and a new registration process being introduced last year.
Several opposition officials and election monitors expressed concern that commune and village officials are not sufficiently independent to be identifying ghost voters.
SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua said that commune officials—the majority of whom are CPP members—would use the list-clearing as a means to disenfranchise opposition supporters.
“The system is biased…with any paperwork that’s done to acknowledge that you are a resident, the village chiefs already know who you vote for,” she said, adding that they may deliberately target opposition members and delete their names.
Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho and chair of the board of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections, said commune chiefs have previously been found to be politically biased and reluctant to register opposition voters. They should not be in charge of eliminating ghost voters, she said.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith denied that the list-clearing process would be biased, adding that foreign experts and opposition officials are involved in managing the general electoral process.
Tep Nytha also said that commune chiefs would not erase opposition voters. “The commune chiefs and clerks cannot just delete any names, or they will face complaints,” he said. “The NEC cannot just jump at the pinprick of politicians, who are always ready to make allegations,” he said.