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NEC seeks help in voter registration push

Authorities in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town confront activists on Saturday for handing out leaflets informing residents on how to register to vote, which they maintained was not allowed. Photo supplied
Authorities in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town confront activists on Saturday for handing out leaflets informing residents on how to register to vote, which they maintained was not allowed. Photo supplied

NEC seeks help in voter registration push

With election officials now registering less than a third of the people they need each day to reach an estimated 9.6 million eligible voters, the National Election Committee has called on the government to help remind people that they only have until November 29 to enroll.

Only about 30,000 people have been registering each day this month – far short of the NEC’s daily goal of 100,000 – and the shortfall has put almost 2 million eligible voters at risk of not being able to take part in next year’s important commune elections.

In a letter issued on Friday, the NEC calls on the Information Ministry to help urge people to register before November 29 and to inform them of the documents they need to do so. It also notes that the committee has already organised some advertising of its own.

“The rate of people coming to register has dropped significantly, and voter registration is getting closer to the end. At the same time, only 73 percent of people have been registered compared to the 9.6 million estimated eligible voters,” the NEC letter says.

“The NEC is cooperating with some NGOs working on elections to advertise through small mobile amplifiers [on streets] and by distributing leaflets.”

City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said the NEC’s request had been received and approved.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said his ministry had instructed state broadcaster TVK, which is carrying the Water Festival races from yesterday until Tuesday, and state radio to help the effort.

“Besides national TV and radio, we had also requested all private-owned TV and radios to broadcast the NEC message,” Kanharith said in a message yesterday.

TVK director-general Kem Gunawadh said that the commentators for the Water Festival’s races had been instructed to insert advertisements into their comments during lulls in the coverage.

“There are three messages: the NEC’s message, an AIDS message and a drugs message,” Gunawadh said. “We can’t comment when the boats are racing, [but] when the distance between the boats are large, we make the comments during that time.”

“We advertise it like: ‘Citizens, please be informed the voter registration is coming to an end. Even during the Water Festival, the NEC still registers voters. Please go and register’,” he explained.

The NEC’s requests came as a group of youths in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town said that Phsar Kandal commune chief Keath Hul had ordered authorities to prevent them from handing out leaflets telling people how to register properly and in time.

“He ordered security guards to do surveillance and make arrests when they found that one of us was continuing to do the work . . . and explaining the procedures of voter registration to villagers,” said Bun Sothy, one of the youths distributing the leaflets.

However, Hul said the group had only been temporarily stopped while his authorities determined with NEC officials whether the information they were distributing to local villagers was in fact correct.

“That group of youths are activists from the CNRP,” Hul said. “We did not prevent or threaten them, we just monitored their activities and requested a ruling [from elections officials] on the documents they were bringing to the people,” Hul said.

Sothy, however, flatly denied yesterday that his group was affiliated with any political party.

Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns

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