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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy blasts voter registration

Rainsy blasts voter registration

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has accused the National Election Committee (NEC) of

contributing to the ruling party's "political impunity," and is blasting

its month-long campaign to compile voter lists as a "vicious scheme."

"It's a big plot being implemented in order to deprive up to two million potential

voters of their rights," Rainsy said by phone from Kampong Cham on August 10.

"They are organizing confusion and creating unnecessary work and procedures

for people - most of whom are unable to do it."

According to Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC, his group has printed more

than 6.7 million election information leaflets ahead of the voter registration process

in October. The NEC distributed the leaflets to individual commune councils who,

in turn, directed them to be handed out by the newly elected village chiefs. Nytha

said that so far this month 400,000 leaflets have been distributed.

"The people who receive the election information leaflets can add their names

to the voter registration list," Nytha said. "The voter can examine the

name and information on the document to verify [its accuracy] before the voter registration

starts in October."

In June elections, which were boycotted by election watchdog NGOs, the CPP won more

than 98 percent of the country's 13,796 village chief positions.

"We now understand why they were so eager to help those village chiefs get [their]

positions," Rainsy said. "It was part of a scheme to manipulate the [coming]

election. The results of 2007 and 2008 are being decided now through the registration

process. It is a vicious scheme to deprive citizens of their voting rights. And the

CPP is requesting $13 million to finance the voting process - that's another dirty

trick."

Rainsy claims that CPP-aligned village chiefs will simply skip the homes of villagers

who are not CPP supporters. He also alleges that correcting names and addresses on

the voter leaflets is beyond the literacy level of most rural Cambodians, and only

CPP followers receive assistance.

"The NEC is independent on paper, but in fact they are doing what the CPP asks

them to do," he said. "We now have a system of political impunity. Generally

any party that continues to violate the country will be toppled or voted out. Through

this trick of the registration process, now we have politicians who can stay in power

for ever even if they violate rights."

Rainsy said he will reveal evidence of his allegations at an August 11 press conference

at Sam Rainsy Party headquarters.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel),

has sent 30 staff members to 300 communes to monitor the auditing of voter lists

to discern the exact number of voters.

"The leaflet is very important," he said. "The voters receive information

about the election, and the NEC is able to know the number of voters. If people don't

receive the leaflets it means their name may not appear on the list to vote."

Panha said that in the 2003 elections an audit of voter lists by Comfrel found that

4 percent of the voters were so-called "ghost voters," an irregularity

where there is a name on the list but no vote.

"The leaflet information is good, but the problem we have is the distributors

who take sides in politics because of the party infrastructure at the commune and

village levels," he said.

"At this time we don't have enough data to comment about political manipulation,

because the process of handing out leaflets has just begun. Our watchdogs have been

sent out remote communes to collect information."

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