The Cambodia National Rescue Party sent a letter on Monday to Interior Minister Sar Kheng asking for clarification on a recently amended prakas that now requires eligible voters to get a police verification letter before a commune chief can attest to their place of residence, thereby enabling them to register for next year’s election.
Last year, the Interior Ministry allowed eligible voters to register for the June 4 local elections in their commune of current residence, at the time empowering the commune chief to provide a letter of residence if the voter could produce one witness to attest to their resident status.
However, on August 14 the prakas was amended to now require eligible voters to first register their address with the local police, then get a letter confirming their residence, after which they can approach the commune chief to register. The prakas also now requires a prospective voter to have lived in a commune for at least 30 days before enrolling.
The CNRP says the amendments come only after their significant success at the commune elections.
The CNRP has 489 commune chiefs across the country to the CPP’s 1,156. The prakas changes were made just weeks before the registration process for next year’s elections starts on September 1.
“In the past, when the CNRP did not have commune chiefs, it was the commune chief who gave the residence letter. But now that the CNRP has 489 commune chiefs, the important responsibility for the election registration is transferred to the police,” said CNRP lawmaker Ky Vandara, one of six to sign the letter.
The letter was submitted to the National Assembly’s secretariat and will be forwarded to Sar Kheng only if it is first approved by Assembly President Heng Samrin.
“We have received the letter, and I am preparing to submit it to Samdech [Heng Samrin]. But I don’t know when Samdech will decide,” said parliament spokesman Leng Peng Long.
Additionally, the letter also seeks clarification on a few instances where district officials required NGOs to seek permission from the district chief before commencing election-related activities.
It also asks about two specific requests pertaining to the capital’s Sen Sok district – the transfer of power from the commune chiefs to district officials in order to officiate a transfer of property, and the district’s appointment of 19 contract officials without consulting the commune council.
Hang Puthea, spokesman for the National Election Committee (NEC), said the body was still studying the new prakas and that it had received concerns the new rules would complicate the registration process.
The NEC has already received criticism for its refusal to facilitate registration and overseas voting processes for migrant workers.
Yoeung Sotheara, legal officer for election monitor Comfrel, said the biggest issue with the new directive was a lack of awareness among the electorate, who are currently only aware of last year’s procedures.
“Some people will not know this. They just know that in order to register for voting, they just bring along a witness and then they can register,” he said.