After extending Cambodia’s voter registration period for a day, the country’s election commission turned down an opposition party request to stretch out the deadline even further.
Although the 90-Day voter registration period was slated to end on Tuesday, the National Election Commission (NEC) added an extra day to the effort, and people flooded several of the commission’s offices, prompting them to remain open until midnight.
While slightly more than 7.8 million of Cambodia’s 9.6 million eligible voters signed up for the local elections scheduled for next year, CNRP officials said the registration short-changed some voters.
Meng Sopheary, head of election monitoring for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told RFA’s Khmer Service that the number of unregistered voters is still too high and the registration period should be extended for at least four more days.
“Though our party is thankful to the NEC for adding another day to the voter registration period, it’s not enough,” she said. “It was evident that during the final day many people still kept coming to register.”
‘We don’t have more time’
NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha, said it was too late to extend the registration period for a longer time.The NEC claims that adding more time would make it difficult to verify the registration data, procedures and technical issues related to the voter rolls.
“We don’t have more time for voter registration as we have another fish to fry including dealing with several complaints,” he said. “We also need to prepare the lists of candidates for over 20,000 polling stations. It is a race against time now.”
But Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, disputed that notion.
“Even if the NEC adds another week to the voter registration period it wouldn’t do any harm to its work schedules,” he said.
Ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan welcomed the NEC’s decision to extend the voter registration drive for a day, but dismissed the opposition for calling for a longer extension, telling Khmer Times that CNRP members were “cultural troublemakers.”
“We are satisfied with the new voter registration process,” he said. “It’s their culture for the opposition’s statement to cause worry to voters and the election process.”
A new system
Cambodians are using a new digital voter registration system that is designed to combat the voter fraud accusations that marred the 2013 elections.
The new system is part of a 2014 election reform deal between the CPP and opposition CNRP that ended almost a year of deadlock following the 2013 ballot.
Included in the nearly 2 million eligible voters who were unable to register this year are migrant workers who have to travel far to their home communes, the elderly who have mobility issues, prisoners and Cambodians who choose not to vote.
Eligible voters who failed to register will be unable to vote in the commune elections in 2017 and the 2018 national elections.
So far, NEC has received 97 complaints about the process, saying that 91% of them has been addressed. Most of the complaints are related to technical errors including the repeated names.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.