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Inflation causes voter apathy

Spiraling inflation is emerging as a key issue ahead of national polls on July 27, election monitors say, warning that the rising cost of living could keep people from traveling to distant voting booths.

“They are worried that their income is not high enough to pay for food and transportation,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

He told the Post there were already indications low-income voters would stay away from the polls, citing falling turnout in the 2007 commune council elections that he attributed partially to higher living costs. Only about 70 percent of eligible voters cast ballots last year, compared to highs exceeding 90 percent in previous national elections when living was cheaper, he said, appealing for greater turnout in July.

But some voters say they have become disillusioned with politics and what they see as the failure of Cambodia’s leaders to address the issues affecting everyday life.

“I stopped believing in politicians,” said one vegetable vendor in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sangke Market, adding that politicians often win office on empty promises. “I won’t vote anymore because I’d rather concentrate on growing vegetables to sell at the market so I can support my family and educate my children,” she said.

Some low-income workers said voting, which required them to travel to their distant home provinces, was a waste of money.

“It will cost me money to travel to the province to vote and I can’t afford to do that because, on my income, I can barely afford enough to eat,” said garment worker Ros Vuthy, who is registered to vote in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam.

But Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, downplayed the effects of inflation, saying it should not deter voters.

“I don’t believe that voters are so ignorant that they will give up their right to vote,” he said.

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