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Mounting election concern

Mounting election concern

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National Election Committee President Im Suosdey speaks yesterday during a meeting at the NEC.

Concern mounted yesterday over the lack of funding available for the upcoming 2012 commune and district elections, as representatives from the government’s National Election Committee held a press conference to appeal for more backing. 

“Up until now, the Royal Government has yet to dispense any funds for the NEC, not even one hundred riel,” Committee chief Im Sousdei said during a speech in Phnom Penh.

“The NEC has budgeted US$23 million for the administration of the elections, which will be held on January 29 of next year,” he said, adding that the NEC was planning to open an additional 790 polling stations, bringing the total nationwide to 18,126.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, yesterday echoed the NEC’s anxieties, calling an adequate budget “very important” for the process of voter registration.

“Money is required to guarantee the quality of the eligible voters list, to make sure there are no deletions or duplications,” he explained, adding that, “without enough time and money, the NEC will not be able to employ enough staff and the quality of elections cannot be assured”.

He suggested that private donors and international development organisations could ease the NEC’s financial woes, but cautioned that “without a concrete plan for improving and reforming the process of voter registration, no one will want to support them”.

He added that he was also appealing to the government to increase the NEC’s budget.  

During the press conference, Im Sousdei also took the opportunity to reiterate the NEC’s controversial June 23 decision to discontinue the use of 10-18 forms, which had allowed citizens without official government identification cards to vote in elections.  

“We are worried that this policy will take away people’s right to vote, so I’ve requested that the NEC push the Ministry of Interior to speed up the production of identification cards for all those eligible to vote,” Kouy Bunroeun, a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, said yesterday.   

According to NEC voter statistics released on Saturday, there are 8,894,219 eligible voters in the Kingdom, of which 4,636,727 are women.  Only 87 percent of the eligible population is registered to vote.  

A report also announced that 70, 828 names had been removed from the eligible voters list, either because the people had died, their names had been repeated, or they had been convicted of a felony.  

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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