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‘Interest in council polls down’

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NEC deputy president Nuth Sokhom (right) speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

‘Interest in council polls down’

A senior National Election Committee (NEC) official said on Friday that there is a distinct lack of interest in the third mandate council elections, which are due to be held at the end of May, compared to last year’s national elections.

He also urged people who have recently turned 18 and anyone who has not registered to vote in the national elections to do so during the annual registration of new voters from May 1-22.

NEC deputy president Nuth Sokhom was talking at a meeting at the NEC to discuss the voting registration schedule, the dissemination of census data and the estimated number of polling stations.

He said the number of people participating in the election process this year had declined, while people seem not to be interested in it compared to national and commune elections.

Sokhom said the NEC has two important events this year – the third mandate council elections and the annual registration of new voters.

He said that according to latest estimates, there 10,178,809 people aged 18 and over who are eligible to vote. The NEC plans to register 372,628 new voters, while 88,626 voters will be removed from the voter list.

“I make an urgent and respectful appeal to citizens who have recently turned 18, and anyone who was born before August 1, 2001, but has never registered to vote, to please come and register to vote from May 1-22 at the commune office where you live,” he said.

Sokhom also noted that fewer people from political parties and civil society organisations had registered to be election observers.

He said that although it is not a national election, it is a major task and a key event for the nation, requiring the active participation and attention of relevant stakeholders, especially the people themselves.

According to the NEC, the third mandate council elections will take place on Sunday, May 26, with a total of 11,572 voters, made up of commune councillors.

They will choose 559 capital and provincial council members, and 3,555 municipal, district and khan council members.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said registration for people who are not yet on the list of voters for 2019 will take place for 22 days from the first day of May.

Last year, 8,544,885 people were registered to vote, he said.

“Let’s not be confused, this year the NEC’s task is to organise a non-national election and to register new voters. Because this year is not a national election year, there is less active participation by the people, but we want everybody involved,” Puthea said.

Sam Kuntheamy, the executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, told The Post on Sunday that there were many factors which had led people to seem uninterested in the election process.

“Investment in the election process has declined because the previous election just ended. Secondly, the NEC’s public campaign was not extensive enough and participation from civil society organisations was minimal."

“Now in a new political environment after the parliamentary elections in 2018, the people are not paying much attention, because there are no real opposition parties and things are going to remain the same,” Kuntheamy said.

He said he still wants Cambodians to take part in all election campaign activities and hopes that people will register to act as observers to ensure that the elections improve, because whatever election is taking place is important for the nation.

According to the NEC, there are seven political parties registered to compete in the council elections and all seven have their observers, while almost 100 NGOs and international institutions are also registered as election observers.

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