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Voter registration drive falls behind schedule

A woman has her fingerprint taken during the digitised voter registration process at an office in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
A woman has her fingerprint taken during the digitised voter registration process at an office in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Hong Menea

Voter registration drive falls behind schedule

Voter registration has fallen far behind schedule over the past two weeks, with enrolment dropping to just 30,000 a day from a target of 100,000, according to official figures, leaving more than 2 million Cambodians at risk of not registering to vote in time.

The new National Election Committee (NEC) has been working since September 1 to re-register people as it rebuilds the national voter list from scratch ahead of the important commune council elections next year. They are scheduled to wrap up the process on November 29.

The committee has said it needs to register about 100,000 people per day to cover all the estimated 9.6 million eligible voters in that time. But its own figures show that no more than 36,000 people have been registered on any of the six days so far this month.

Hang Puthea, spokesman for the NEC, said the drop in registration was a major concern.

“The rains are not over yet, which affects some people’s travels . . . [and] some families have not made it easy for their members to register. Only the head of the family has registered,” Puthea said, explaining that Water Festival celebrations this month would also not help the cause.

He added that the NEC was now trying to get the word out. “We have leased more private radio stations in the provinces and . . . we are reaching out to teacher training centres so they can be the disseminators,” he said.

Registration numbers have fallen rapidly in recent days. In the two weeks from October 24 to Sunday, an average of about 43,500 people registered per day. Yet for the first six days of this month alone, the average drops to 31,800 – with a record low of 27,322 people registering on Sunday.

With about 6.8 million people registered and 23 days of enrollment remaining, the recent average of about 30,000 people per day would only allow the NEC to register about 7.5 million people by November 29 – well short of the objective of 9.6 million.

Preap Kol, head of Transparency International Cambodia, took to Facebook yesterday to appeal for more to be done to speed up registration. He said many people still falsely believed they did not have to register if they voted before.

“The number of people registering is falling by the day, even though about 30 to 40 percent of eligible voters have not registered yet,” Kol wrote. “The total number of people may end up being less than 80 percent if there is no immediate and strong push.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann could not be reached. However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that many countries have much lower voter participation in elections than 80 percent.

“There’s nothing to worry about. Registration is about 70 percent completed, and there are two or three weeks left,” Eysan said. “Some countries vote with only 40 percent [of voters], and that is used officially. So what about us, with 70 or 80 percent?”

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