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Registrations ‘cumbersome’

Voters have been allowed to register for next year’s commune elections despite lacking proper documentation, an election-monitoring group said yesterday in a report that highlighted several issues with the “cumbersome” process.

The Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia released preliminary findings of its observations of the registration process in a random sample of 299 out of Cambodia’s 1,621 communes. More than 300 trained workers were dispatched to monitor voting registration and deliver daily reports. Data collected between September 1 and 10, the first 10 days of the registration process, highlighted several concerns.

In 15 percent of communes, at least one person was allowed to register without any documentation and in 40 percent of communes, at least one person was allowed to register without coming into the office. Law stipulates that voters must be physically present to register and must provide documentation proving age, commune of residency, proof of citizenship and a photograph. Monitors reported that at 60 percent of observed registration sites, operating hours were not strictly adhered to.

NICFEC project officer Sokha Mang said the findings showed problems at the local level.

“They are not following all the regulations,” he said.

Laura Thornton, country director for the National Democratic Institute, which supported the NICFEC in implementing the study, said that the findings “weren’t surprising”.

“We find the annual process of voter registration quite cumbersome for Cambodians,” she said. She also said it was “problematic” to place responsibility for voter registration in the hands of the commune council, an elected body.

NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha declined to comment on the findings, saying that he had not seen the report but he encouraged voters to file a complaint if they were unable to register properly.

Yesterday, the NEC announced it would extend voter registration period in areas severely affected by flooding  by three days. Opposition parties had called for a 15-day extension.

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