Voter reg­is­tra­tion slow: NEC

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Soth Keom­soeun

THE Na­tional Elec­tion Com­mit­tee yes­ter­day said voter reg­is­tra­tion was pro­gress­ing slower than ex­pected, largely due to mi­grant work­ers not reg­is­ter­ing – an is­sue that ad­vo­cates have urged the elec­toral body to rem­edy for months.

Fol­low­ing last year’s reg­is­tra­tion, where only 7.8 mil­lion of 9.6 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers were put on the elec­toral rolls, mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates and elec­tion mon­i­tors asked the NEC to en­able mi­grant work­ers to ei­ther reg­is­ter in their coun­try of res­i­dence or along the Thai­land bor­der, which is home to more than a mil­lion Cam­bo­dian work­ers.

Both re­quests were turned down due to “leg­isla­tive con­straints”, with NEC head Sik Bun Hok lash­ing out at crit­i­cism that the elec­toral body was in­fring­ing on the rights of mi­grant work­ers.

NEC Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Tep Nytha yes­ter­day said reg­is­tra­tion booths were not re­ceiv­ing many peo­ple, largely due to tepid par­tic­i­pa­tion from mi­grant work­ers.

“If we look at all the names in the voter reg­istry, peo­ple who can vote are about 9.8 mil­lion,” he said. “There­fore, this num­ber is huge, but our reg­is­tra­tion gets only a small num­ber of peo­ple.”

Nytha added that rain, lack of proper reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments and peo­ple mov­ing to new com­munes had con­trib­uted to the lethar­gic voter reg­is­tra­tion re­sponse, but re­fused any sug­ges­tion that the re­cent ar­rest of CNRP President Kem Sokha and re­lated po­lit­i­cal de­velop- ments had any­thing to do with it.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said the process was go­ing smoothly, de­spite the low turnout.

How­ever, he said the United States had pulled its fund­ing for the reg­is­tra­tion process – with­out giv­ing ex­act de­tails of this as­sis­tance – but said the na­tional bud­get would be used to make up for the deficit.

“Though there is no aid [from the US], the gov­ern­ment has al­ready given enough money,” he said, adding that the ab­sence of a “part­ner” would not hold back the process.

The US Em­bassy in Ph­nom Penh yes­ter­day said that it had no com- ment at the time.

Elec­tion mon­i­tor Sam Kuntheamy said there was no co­or­di­na­tion with work­ers abroad to en­able them to come back and reg­is­ter in the coun­try, let alone al­low­ing them to reg­is­ter over­seas.

Tep Nytha, he added, was only show­ing one side of the story and the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate was hav­ing a def­i­nite ef­fect on the reg­is­tra­tion process.

“The po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is also a large prob­lem and cre­ates a lot of fear, dis­cour­ages peo­ple or makes them think their vote is not valu­able,’’ Kuntheamy said.

SRENG MENG SRUN

The Na­tional Elec­tion Comit­tee holds a meet­ing yes­ter­day in Ph­nom Penh to dis­cuss voter regis­tra­tions for next year’s na­tional elec­tions.

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