The National Election Committee yesterday said voter registration was progressing slower than expected, largely due to migrant workers not registering – an issue that advocates have urged the electoral body to remedy for months.
Following last year’s registration, where only 7.8 million of 9.6 million eligible voters were put on the electoral rolls, migrant rights advocates and election monitors asked the NEC to enable migrant workers to either register in their country of residence or along the Thailand border, which is home to more than a million Cambodian workers.
Both requests were turned down due to “legislative constraints”, with NEC head Sik Bun Hok lashing out at criticism that the electoral body was infringing on the rights of migrant workers.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha yesterday said registration booths were not receiving many people, largely due to tepid participation from migrant workers.
“If we look at all the names in the voter registry, people who can vote are about 9.8 million,” he said. “Therefore, this number is huge, but our registration gets only a small number of people.”
Nytha added that rain, lack of proper registration documents and people moving to new communes had contributed to the lethargic voter registration response, but refused any suggestion that the recent arrest of CNRP President Kem Sokha and related political developments had anything to do with it.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said the process was going smoothly, despite the low turnout.
However, he said the United States had pulled its funding for the registration process – without giving exact details of this assistance – but said the national budget would be used to make up for the deficit.
“Though there is no aid [from the US], the government has already given enough money,” he said, adding that the absence of a “partner” would not hold back the process.
The US Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday said that it had no comment at the time.
Election monitor Sam Kuntheamy said there was no coordination with workers abroad to enable them to come back and register in the country, let alone allowing them to register overseas.
Tep Nytha, he added, was only showing one side of the story and the current political climate was having a definite effect on the registration process.
“The political climate is also a large problem and creates a lot of fear, discourages people or makes them think their vote is not valuable,’’ Kuntheamy said.