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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NEC trims voter rolls

NEC trims voter rolls

As elections officials begin preparing for the 2008 national elections, an official

said this week that more than 20,000 of the total 653,000 voter names identified

for removal from the voter lists have already been deleted.

Tep Nytha, NEC's Secretary-General said individual voters have three days to complain

to members of their commune council when the voter list is released in the commune

for voters to look at.

"The deadline of the registration process will be delayed according to how many

complaints we receive," Nytha said. Currently the deadline is Oct. 27.

The lists are regularly updated to reflect deaths, migration and other cases involving

loss of voting rights.

Nytha said NEC estimates that there are 682,000 new eligible voters who can register.

An opposition leader and a new report from the Committee on Free and Fair Elections

urged caution in the voter registration process.

Sam Rainsy, president of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) told the Post on October

4 that the SRP was always concerned that the complexity of the voter registration

process discriminates against voters who do not support the ruling Cambodian People's

Party (CPP).

"We are concerned that the people in the villages who do not support the CPP

will lose their rights to vote," Rainsy said.

Even Mu Sochua, Deputy Secretary General of SRP, told reporters last month that her

name was on the list for removal from the voter list unless she were to file a complaint.

She filed a complaint.

Comfrel report criticizes fairness of the April elections

Meanwhile, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) last week

made public its final report on the April 2007 commune council elections. It said

reduced elections violence was encouraging, but that it was very concerned about

the voter registration process and about millions of Cambodians who did not vote.

"Comfrel and the other election stakeholders are most concerned about the fact

that 2 million eligible voters did not vote. This figure could mark a new phenomenon

in Cambodia's democracy, that of voter apathy which should worry politicians,"

said the assessment report.

"Comfrel has concerns about quality of the voter list, which may have been affected

by speeding up of the process in the last stages of registration," Comfrel said.

Comfrel said that ghost voters represent as many as 10 percent of the total voter

list. It said 18 percent of voter's ID documents did not match the voter lists.

Nytha, NEC's Secretary-General, declined to comment, saying he had not seen the report.

The 89-page assessment said National Elections officials need to continue to work

on the voter registration process making sure that voters from all political affiliations

have equal access to the polls.

The report said the Ministry of Interior and competent authorities at all levels

have to ensure that 100 percent of the Khmer citizenship ID cards and other identity

documents can be used on polling day in order to avoid accusations from political

parties and others.

The report said that NEC has to ensure that all political parties taking part in

the elections have the same rights to campaign equally and freely and without obstruction.

Comfrel Executive Director Koul Panha said that the assessment should help to improve

the environment for the elections next year.

In the commune elections, 5.29 million voters cast ballots, representing a voter

turnout of 68 percent, compared with 2002 when the turnout was 87 percent.

Comfrel's assessment said that 2.5 million voters out of the total 7.8 million eligible

did not vote in the elections and they were probably not the CPP voters.

The report said that 18 percent of these eligible voters tried to go to vote, but

encountered obstructions and did not vote. Among this group, 6 percent did not receive

a voter information notice, which made them conclude they did not have the right

to vote. There were 1.4 million voters who did not receive the voter information

notice.

"Overall, COMFREL believes that the 2007 commune council elections were conducted

in an improved manner in technical aspects compared with the previous elections,

but that there is scope for more improvement," the report said.

Nine political killings were reported during the elections period, compared to 18

dead in the 2002 elections. Comfrel said elections related violations escalated after

the start of the official campaign period on March 16.

"A total of 333 cases of irregularity were observed, mostly in Kampong Cham,

Kandal, Koh Kong, and Prey Veng followed by Banteay Meanchey, Takeo, Siem Reap and

Oddar Meanchey."

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