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Early issues crop up in voter registration test

People in Prey Veng examine printed voter registration sheets in 2013.
People in Prey Veng examine printed voter registration sheets in 2013. Vireak Mai

Early issues crop up in voter registration test

The recent testing of a new electronic voter registration system has fallen significantly short of expectations, with only about 50 per cent of the hoped-for registrations completed, according to officials.

The National Election Committee (NEC), which is tasked with organising new voter lists for the 2017 commune elections and 2018 national ballot, has been rolling out the new biometric voter registration system in selected areas since November 1.

But NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said yesterday that the 15-day testing period saw only 17,556 of an expected 32,528 people registered.

“The things that hindered the process’ success are natural factors such as heavy rains and storms,” which prevented people from reaching the registration centres, Puthea said. “The NEC’s message [about the test] was also not widely spread; there was poor internet service and [issues with] the computer batteries not lasting long enough.”

“The NEC deeply regrets it could not achieve the expected goal, but these are not major problems; the ineffective [announcing of the project] is the most important one that needs to be addressed,” he added.

But Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free & Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), which observed the testing period, said the process also needed to be sped up and simplified.

“Some people have not clearly understood [what they are doing] when there is no help from the verification officials and there are many documents that need to be filled out by hand, which is time consuming and slow.”

Panha suggested that people should be given more assistance and the entire process done electronically.

Puthea yesterday said the NEC will learn from the issues that have arisen in the testing period to ensure that the process runs smoothly when the official voter registration begins next year.

The three-month process is currently scheduled to begin in March, but Puthea said the NEC is discussing pushing it back to May in light of the results of the test.

He added that Japan had also agreed to offer more technical assistance.

Officials at the Japanese Embassy could not be reached for comment.

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