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First-time voters unable to cast ballots

First-time voters unable to cast ballots

Vandy Rattana

An election worker counts votes following Sunday's parliamentary polls

KAMPOT – First-time voters in Sunday’s election were barred from casting ballots at polling stations in Kampot province because their names were not on voter lists, according to election monitors. But observers and party activists are divided as to whether the omissions were due to deliberate manipulation or simple bureaucratic oversight.

Sam Ath, 24, skipped work to cast his vote at the Wat Kampot polling station in Andoung Khmer commune, only to be told that his name was not on any of the five voter lists.

“I feel sorry because I work far away from here, and I want to vote,” he said. “None of my friends had a problem.”

Another first-time voter, who wished to remain anonymous, traveled from Phnom Penh to vote at Kampong Krong Primary School in Kampong Kandal commune, but was confused when he couldn’t find his name on the list.

“The NEC sent an information letter, but only my brothers received it,” he told the Post, saying he thought he’d done everything he needed to vote.

“There are about 20 people at each polling station who are not on the lists,” said Ma Doll, a Comfrel voting monitor based in Kampot. “Some people have information papers but their names are not on the list. Others claim information papers never reached them.”

However, some voters and election monitors dismissed the concerns, claiming the vote was carried off smoothly compared with past years.

When asked about the absence of some names on the voter lists, In Thon, a commune election committee observer at Son Dakta Primary School in Kampong Kandal commune, said that it was “not a problem.”

“Four names were absent from the station’s voting lists,” In Thon said, but all were “found at another polling station nearby.”

CPP election observer Ouch Somang agreed that everything was above-board. “The election is much better than earlier ones. People know what they’re doing and there’s no more political pressure,” he said.

But Khin Krann, SRP secretary of Kampong Bay commune said voter disenfranchisement had been a major problem. “Many people didn’t get a vote,” he said.

Comfrel’s Ma Doll could not say whether this was the result of a deliberate policy to disenfranchise young voters or an unintentional error.

“This situation shows that it is a difficult issue for [voters] to use their right to choose the nation’s leader. I think it may affect their confidence in the election process,” he said.

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