Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Comfrel report blasts council elections scheduled for May

Comfrel report blasts council elections scheduled for May

Comfrel report blasts council elections scheduled for May

In a new report, the election watchdog argues that the polls will not

be of interest to the average voter and will also be too expensive.

FUNDING THE VOTE

The 2008 general election cost $16.8 million and accommodated roughly 8.1 million voters. The council elections scheduled for May will cost $1.5 million but will only accommodate 11,353 voters, according to the National Election Committee. 

THE Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) on Thursday issued a report criticising the upcoming council elections scheduled for May, in which the group says the polls will hold no interest for the general public, which is not allowed to vote in them, and will therefore prove largely meaningless.

The report states that the elections will be relevant only to the political parties that won council seats in 2007's commune council elections.

May's council elections will see the country's 11,353 commune councillors vote to determine the representation of their respective parties at the higher-level district councils and the municipal and provincial councils.

The election process is part of the government's strategy to devolve power to fill the gap between representation at the local and national levels.

Under the council election law, councillors may not vote for any individual of their choosing but instead must vote for one of the candidates put up by each party represented in that commune. That, said Comfrel Executive Director Koul Panha, means the system is flawed.

No real ballot choice

The report points out what it regards as another problem: Because commune councillors were appointed to the ballot list by their respective parties, and thereby won their posts, they need to serve that party's interests. For that reason, Comfrel states, they are unlikely to vote for the candidate of another party - even if they want to.

"So in reality, they will simply vote for their own party, although some could be bought off by other parties," the report states.

Cost concerns

The report also argues that the cost per voter will far exceed the cost per voter in the 2008 general election. The general election cost US$16.8 million for around 8.1 million voters. According to the National Election Committee (NEC), which manages the country's polls, the vote in May will cost $1.5 million for 11,353 voters - more than 50 times as much per voter.

NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said the law requires his organisation to run the council poll but acknowledged the cost will be much higher per voter and said this is due to the logistics required for the vote.

"In the national election, we would have one ballot box in each office," he said. "But in the council election, we have two ballot boxes and two voting forms because councillors are voting for the district level and the provincial level."

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