Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Balloting changes threaten secrecy

Balloting changes threaten secrecy

Balloting changes threaten secrecy

A NEW regulation from the National Election Committee (NEC) appears to water down

a compromise intended to protect voters from intimidation and give them greater anonymity,

critics say.

The regulation allows votes to be counted at the 'sub-commune' level - in groups

as small as three villages - instead of the five to seven villages that make up the

average-sized commune.

Last month, a compromise that changed the vote count from the village-level to the

communes helped end an opposition boycott of the National Assembly.

A commune-level ballot count was seen as a way to ensure the winner of the polls

didn't know which villages voted predominantly for the loser.

But NEC regulation 7.9.2 on ballot counting states: "The ballots of at least

three polling stations shall be mixed together in a large waterproof bag."

Critics worry that "at least three polling stations" will likely be interpreted

as "only three".

"To go from the commune count to a sort of inter-village commune level seems

to be an unwelcome move," said one Western diplomat.

NEC deputy chairman Kassie Neou denied that the regulation amounts to a change in

policy and said that votes will not be widely counted on a sub-commune level.

"If the commune has three or four polling stations, that is how it will be counted.

If it has 19, that is how it will be counted. We don't specify five or seven [villages]

per count. There has been no change. All the commune votes will be mixed and counted

together for maximum security."

An electoral aide, however, left little doubt that votes would be counted in clusters

of three villages, asserting that constraints imposed by election equipment effectively

mean three villages is all that can be counted at one time.

"We don't want to lose a ballot. The containers we have to hold the ballot boxes

- they are big blue bags - can only hold three boxes," he said.

One critic called it "ridiculous" to risk increased voter intimidation

because of the size of ballot receptacles. "They can get bigger containers,"

he said.

One vote counting change Kassie Neou did acknowledge was that the NEC has decided

votes will be held overnight and counted the next morning.

"People work all day, it is a big day. They transport documents to the commune.

That is already 15 hours of work," he explained.

He said post-vote ballot security will be guaranteed by poll staff and national observers.

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the

  • Soaring global fuel prices: an opportunity for Cambodia?

    Cambodia is feeling the squeeze from the soaring global coal and oil prices. Electricity du Cambodge (EDC)would certainly be hurting from this reality, and most likely re-assessing its plans to add more coal power stations. EDC buys half of Cambodia’s electricity from plants

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when