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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CNRP to urge supporters to vote in home communes

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Phnom Penh residents wait in line to register their electoral information during a voter registration trial late last year. Hong Menea

CNRP to urge supporters to vote in home communes

The Cambodia National Rescue Party will campaign for its supporters to register in their home communes to avoid “wasting” their vote in Cambodia National Rescue Party strongholds.

With just days until a nationwide voter registration drive kicks off, CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang told a public forum at CNRP HQ recently that the party would lobby the National Election Committee and Labour Ministry to take measures to help workers return to their native province to register.

This included pushing the NEC to work over the Pchum Ben holiday in early October – when many Cambodians return to their home villages – and asking the Labour Ministry to grant workers “special leave” in order to register via the Kingdom’s new electronic system, Chhay Eang said.

The lawmaker said CNRP president Sam Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, would also send messages to workers urging them to return to their communes. Chhay Eang claimed the campaign was requested by party members.

“Our brothers and sisters want labourers, workers who work in Phnom Penh and provinces, to vote at the base, and our party will work to help with this issue,” Chhay Eang said on Friday, according to a video uploaded to Facebook yesterday.

Under the new Election Law, which was passed with bipartisan support in 2015, voters now have the choice of voting in their native commune or in the commune of their temporary residence.

Observers have noted that this could see many young, opposition-aligned workers, particularly in the Kingdom’s 600,000-strong garment sector, cast their ballot in industrial centres such as Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham, which are already opposition strongholds.

With fewer migrant workers casting ballots in rural provinces, the Cambodian People’s Party may have a better chance of holding on to their traditional heartland, analysts have suggested.

Speaking to the Post yesterday, CNRP lawmaker for Battambang Long Botta said that’s a situation the party wanted to avoid. “Don’t waste your vote in the city,” Botta appealed.

“There are a strict number of seats in every city and each province. If a lot of the supporters living in the city where they are working vote there, they will waste their vote.”

Responding yesterday, NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said the group had yet to make a final decision on whether voter registration teams will work during Pchum Ben. Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment.

Yesterday afternoon on Veng Sreng Boulevard, one of the capital’s main industrial hubs, several garment workers were unaware of the impending registration drive.

Kol Ratha, 26, said she assumed her previous registration was still valid. Told she would need to re-register, the seamstress said she would likely travel to her native Svay Rieng province.

“I don’t know any places here,” she said.

For others, such as CNRP supporter and Takeo native Tim Dany, the decision, in a sense, rests with their employer.

“I might vote here, because the province is far,” she said. “I want to go to the province, but it depends if the factory will let me go.”

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