THEY are still calling it a success, but election workers warn that the figure of
98% of potential voters registered may have to be adjusted downwards to about 92%.
As the National Election Committee's (NEC) computer center logs registration information
into its data bank and workers deal with parties' and individuals' complaints, they
have discovered that their earlier totals may be off.
"What happened in some instances is that when registration officials gave us
the numbers, they looked at the beginning serial number [of their allotted registration
cards] and their ending serial number and gave us the difference," one foreign
election worker explained. "In effect, there would be a small amount of canceled
cards in the middle."
Election technicians have estimated that the true figure may be 92%, which they still
point out as quite an impressive turnout.
Pan Sorasak, head of the NEC computer center, said his people are finding about two
or three cancellations in each booklet of 50 registration cards. However, he declined
to estimate a final figure.
"Right now the best thing I can say is that we will have to change [the figure],
but we don't really know how much," Sorasak said.
And if nationalist opposition parties have their way, as many as 10,000 registered
voters will also be removed from the voter rolls because they are suspected of being
The NEC member in charge of the election body's legal office, Tip Jahnvibol, said
Funcinpec has registered 6,000 individual complaints of Vietnamese illegally registering
and the Sam Rainsy Party and Son Sann Party have sent in 600 each, with other parties
making up the remainder.
Jahnvibol said that although the Vietnamese issue is clogging up the NEC's complaints
system, the election body must deal with each complaint case-by-case.
"For us in the NEC, this is not a racial issue, but an issue of the legitimacy
of the electoral process," he said.
Not only are opposition parties concerned that ethnic Vietnamese voters will choose
the CPP over themselves, but also that illegal aliens may gain citizenship through
the issuance of a registration card, Jahnvibol said.
The NEC has held numerous hearings since registration ended on June 15 and held complainants
to a strict set of guidelines in successfully filing their complaints.
But once the complaint checks out enough to call suspected illegal voters to give
their own testimony, Jahnvibol said they have invariably failed to travel to Phnom
Penh to defend themselves. Without a defense, the suspects are considered illegal
and their registration cards are canceled.
The NEC notifies suspects by sending a message to the proper Commune Election Commission,
which then attempts to find the registered individual at his or her stated place
of residence, but Jahnvibol said the system is far from perfect. "The problem
is that we often can't find these people," he said. "They may live on a
boat, but give a fake address so they can register."
Besides the Vietnamese issue, the Sam Rainsy Party has also submitted an official
complaint to the NEC that overseas Khmers were not given an opportunity to register
for the vote unless they came back to Cambodia.
Surprisingly, no party has filed a complaint that about 80,000 refugees living on
the Thai border were not given access to the registration process.
Thailand offered in June to assist in registering refugees of voting age, but Cambodian
authorities at the NEC said it was too late.