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US announces $1.8M in funding for election

People search for their names on the new NEC voter lists in Phnom Penh's Tonle Bassac commune in January.
People search for their names on the new NEC voter lists in Phnom Penh's Tonle Bassac commune in January. Pha Lina

US announces $1.8M in funding for election

The United States Embassy announced yesterday that USAID will support Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) with a new $1.8 million grant to be administered through the non-profit International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

“This most recent grant announced by USAID will help the NEC carry out voter education campaigns, strengthen its election dispute resolution processes, and enhance its ability to identify and mitigate weaknesses in the country’s electoral system,” said US Embassy spokesman Jay Raman in an email. “USAID previously supported the National Election Commission with similar grants, implemented by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and other partners.”

The United States “has consistently called on the Royal Government of Cambodia to take all necessary steps to ensure that the electoral campaigns and elections in 2017 and 2018 are free, fair, and transparent,” Raman said.

“As a part of that effort, we are supporting reform efforts at the NEC, as we have in the past, including by assisting with voter education and improving the NEC’s technical capacity.”

According to NEC spokesman Hang Puthea, the grant will help to improve the observation capabilities of the agency.

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC) is optimistic that the grant will provide the United States, through USAID, with a more legitimate platform from which to call out irregularities.

For instance, Kuntheamy said, “they can work with the NEC to make sure every political party has access to the media”.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that he welcomed the donation. “I thank the donor because the $1 million will be used for the common benefit for the elections,” said Eysan. “For the success of the election, [the NEC] needs money to run the election process.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann also said he was pleased with the donation, but noted that a healthy NEC was only one part of a fair election cycle. “We congratulate any grant to the NEC,” said Sovann, adding “the political environment is very bad and there is a lot of interference in CNRP affairs”.

“[A] free and fair election is not just the affair of the NEC. It’s [also] the political environment,” he said.

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