Rectifying one of the greatest sources of outrage and discontent surrounding previous elections, the voter list compiled for upcoming commune elections has passed an audit with flying colors, though commentators remain skeptical as to whether the country will actually witness free and fair elections on June 4. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) on Tuesday published its full report on the completely remade voter list, following the NGO coalition’s release of a summary at a news conference last week. “This audit found that there are significant improvements on the quality of the 2016 voter list in its completeness, currency, and accuracy compared with the previous voter list,” Comfrel’s report says.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The Minister of Cults and Religion has agreed to review laws governing the issuance of identification cards to monks which, in its current state, limits their right to vote. After answering questions at the National Assembly’s seventh commission, minister Him Chhem said they will be working on the various issues raised, including the development of the National Buddhist Institution, the expansion of the Buddhist University and the wages of monks. “We understand each other [in the meeting]. I have my report. We will solve the remaining problems gradually. We have measures to solve it,” he briefly said to reporters yesterday without elaborating on any of the issues raised in the assembly.
The National Election Committee (NEC) says it will consider prolonging voter registration in some areas only if it’s needed as compiling this year’s voter list ends in two weeks. Voter registration is changing from a manual to a computer system. Registration started on September 1 for next year’s commune elections and the national election in 2018. The process ends on November 29. Hang Puthea, a spokesman for the NEC, said yesterday that the organization’s top officials are going to the 25 provincial capitals to discover the challenges which have cut the rate of registrations from 70,000 in a day to below 30,000.
Young potential voters who have migrated abroad in search of work are facing the loss of their voting rights due to a lack of information and documents required to register to vote from a location different to their registered address, civil society groups said yesterday. During a workshop on “The Challenges and Solutions: Voter Registration for Youth,” in Phnom Penh, Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Center for Development and Peace (PDP-Center) said that according to their data, many youths were unaware of how to register to vote in next year’s commune elections. “Youths are more than half of the country’s citizens, some of whom are migrants working in foreign countries and are facing the loss of their right to vote if they do not go to register. This is a concern as there might be a problem for the democratic process if the youth do not participate.”
As Cambodian officials rolled out a new voter registration system on Thursday, questions were raised about the nation’s ability to conduct free and fair elections. While Cambodian authorities announced a three-month registration process that will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 29, the U.N. ambassador to Cambodia expressed concern that the country’s current political situation could poison the process. “The European Union has expressed concerns over certain actions of the authorities in implementing legal procedures against the opposition party’s officials, civil society’s representatives, and the National Election Commission (NEC) deputy general secretary,” said Ambassador George Edgar. “Cambodia’s authorities must ensure an atmosphere that all political parties and nongovernmental agencies are able to do their jobs without obstacles,” he added during a ceremony announcing the launch of the registration system.
Cambodia’s new voter registration system will use a computer program to register eligible citizens who have a national identity card and are over the age of 18 before election day, according to a National Election Committee (NEC) technical officer at a media training event on Friday. Tob Rethy, head of the department of voter database management and NEC voter lists, explained the registration process and addressed reporters’ security concerns. “The names of villages, communes, districts, provinces, capitals and other important details are already included in the program, meaning program users are not allowed to write or add more villages or communes,” he said. “We will use a 3G service to send the data to the server at the NEC head office in Phnom Penh. In case data cannot be sent through the Internet, the user can store it on a flash card or SD card, then send the data file to the NEC commune office for forwarding to the capital,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday appealed to Cambodia’s 9.6 million eligible voters to register to cast their ballots when enrollment opens next month, as the opposition CNRP expressed concerns that a million migrant workers could be disenfranchised. As part of the 2014 political deal between the CPP and CNRP, a new bipartisan National Election Committee (NEC) was created with a mandate to build a new electronic voter list without the hundreds of thousands of double and missing names that plagued previous lists. Mr. Hun Sen, speaking at a ceremony for a new bridge in Kandal province on Monday, said that those who do not register when NEC officials travel the country from the start of September to the end of November would not be able to vote in next year’s commune elections.
The European Union (EU) on Wednesday donated 25 different kinds of electronic equipment to the National Election Committee (NEC) for the upcoming voter registration for the 2017 commune elections. According to a press release issued by the NEC on Wednesday, the electronic equipment included 2,400 HP notebooks, 2,425 computer monitors and various kinds of electronic equipment that will arrive soon. “After receiving the laptops and equipment, voter registration for the new voter list in 2016 should be carried out without any problem,” read the letter. Hang Puthea, an NEC spokesman, told Khmer Times that all voters will be electronically registered from September 1 to November 29, while the election will be held on June 4 next year.
Cambodia’s next election will be in July 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Wednesday, as leaders of the opposition face legal charges they say are politically motivated to stop them challenging the veteran premier in the vote. Long before the Southeast Asian nation goes to the ballot box, political tension has risen. The last election in 2013 marked self-styled strongman Hun Sen’s toughest challenge in three decades of rule. The opposition, led by Hun Sen’s longtime foe Sam Rainsy, accused the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of cheating its way to victory and boycotted parliament for a year.
The National Election Committee (NEC) is confronting challenges this week regarding new voter registration, paying particularly close attention to problems arising from the dissemination of new voter ID cards and allowing better access to monks who wish to obtain them. In an internal meeting yesterday, NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said that one of the problems with the voter ID cards is that obtaining one takes too much time. The NEC plans to continue discussions with the Interior Ministry in order to come up with solutions to that problem, such as allowing birth certificates to stand in for the cards. “We need solutions because people that have old ID cards will see them expire in 2018,” Mr. Puthea said. “They won’t be able to use them to register to vote. We will continue to talk with the ministry about the people who don’t have ID cards. They should use their birth certificates.”