Unexpected Voter Statistics Raise Concern

National Election Committee officials have lauded their registration of some 1.2 million voters in October as a great achievement, but election monitors are questioning the accuracy of NEC statistics, which originally predicted that only 577,502 new voters would register. A total of 1,214,250 new voters registered in October for the commune elections in April-a number more than double the NEC’s initial prediction, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections said in a Friday statement.

Comfrel Director Koul Panha said Monday that he was concerned that the 1.2 million figure may be bloated by people who have registered twice, or by ghost voters.

“Ghost voter” refers to names on voting lists of people who many not exist, have already died or do not live where they claim to live. Election monitors are concerned that individuals may use ghost names to vote, potentially swinging the outcome of the election.

Khan Keo Mono, deputy director of the NEC’s public information bureau, defended the accuracy of NEC statistics.

More people registered than the NEC had estimated because of a successful campaign to educate the public about the process, he said.

Technical errors in NEC statistics were among a number of irregularities in the voter registration process mentioned in Comfrel’s report.

Comfrel said mass registration denials had occurred in Battambang’s Bavel district, where 3,170 families in Ampil Pram Doeum commune were prevented from registering because they lacked residency and identity documents. Villagers in the commune are embroiled in a land dispute with RCAF soldiers, who also claim the land and allegedly have burned down some villagers’ homes.

Around 3,000 people evicted from central Phnom Penh to Dangkao district’s Kouk Roka commune in June were also prevented from registering because they lacked adequate documents proving their residency and nationality.

The NEC rejected appeals seeking the right to register from both communes earlier this month.

Comfrel claimed in its report that commune councils and the NEC have shown “a lack of attention to intervening, advising or investigating inconclusive complaints.”

Khan Keo Mono responded that the NEC has very little time to hear complaints, let alone investigate them.

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