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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lower voter registration as parties prepare for polls

Lower voter registration as parties prepare for polls

Election monitoring organizations (EMO) blamed numerous reasons for the lower

than expected voter registration for the upcoming commune elections.

They said that poor organization and a lack of time, resources and

education, had combined with violations of election law and irregularities to

produce lower registration than in previous elections.

According to the

National Election Committee (NEC), 83 percent of the 6 million eligible voters

registered. This represented a 10 percent drop on registration in the 1998

election.

"I don't know how the NEC can be sure that is the number of

people registered," said Kek Galabru, president of Nicfec, an EMO. "It wasn't

fair. The NEC [didn't respect] the right of the people to vote. The one million

eligible voters who weren't allowed to register could have made a difference in

the [final outcome] of the election."

Galabru, who spent two days trying

to register, said that intimidation and a lack of voter education had affected

matters.

"It was difficult for some people to find out where they should

register. Others that knew [found that] when they arrived at the station,

officials said there were not enough materials to register everyone," she

said.

Prince Norodom Sirivudh, secretary general of coalition partner

Funcinpec, agreed that a lack of material had prevented some from

registering.

"We recognize there were some irregularities in terms of

registration," said Sirivudh.

However, with registration now over, CPP

and Funcinpec are looking towards competing for those votes. Although they share

power, they still plan to compete in the upcoming commune election. Sirivudh

said Funcinpec would try its best to win as many commune positions as

possible.

"Cooperation does not mean no competition," said Sirivudh. "Of

course, there are difficulties: how is one in cooperation when one is

competing?"

Chan Ven (CPP), deputy secretary general of the National

Assembly said his party was ready for the election.

"Competition is

normal in a democracy," said Ven. "The CPP is like a champion boxer: when there

is a title boxing match, he has to practice harder."

Ven said he was glad

of the multitude of political parties, since the competition would force the CPP

to work hard to maintain its existing position.

"The CPP will not be

ignored," said Ven. "We are training the members of the party to be ready for

the election."

Sirivudh said Funcinpec had started planning for the

election. He said the party was preparing itself, looking at organization and

strategy as well managing resources and training party members.

However, he would not divulge any details regarding Funcinpec's strategy. He

added that it was most important that the election be well-run and Cambodia

remain stable.

"[Funcinpec wants] competition which is fair, without

violence, based on the democratic process and no crimes or intimidation," said

Sirivudh. "We hope that [competition] does not lead us...to conflict and

confrontation."

There have been several cases of violence linked to the

commune election since 1999: eight members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party

(SRP) have been killed, said Eng Chhay Eang, secretary general of the SRP. So

have four members of Funcinpec said a source from that party.

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