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COMFREL Unveils Irregularities in National Election Process

Poll preparations have been plagued with irregularities that could lead to discouraged voters and a skewed national election next year, the independent monitor group COMFREL said Thursday.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections said it had found that village chiefs and commune council members were not following instructions to post voter lists for public review to ensure that those who want to vote know they are eligible.

In a survey of 165 of Cambodia's 1,621 communes, Comfrel found 28 with some type of irregularity, according to a report published on the group's Web site Thursday.

As many as 550,000 names could be deleted from voter lists, which are an essential part of the election process at the village level, as Cambodia prepares for national parliamentary elections next year, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has said.

People who had aliases were at risk of becoming ineligible, Comfrel said, along with those who traveled to other areas for work.

The majority of irregularities was found in Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom provinces and consistently affected supporters of the Sam Rainsy, Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec parties, according to the report.

These complications could discourage potential voters and affect the free and fair status of the elections, Comfrel Executive Director Koul Panha said.

In commune elections this year, only 65 percent of eligible voters turned out, a considerably lower number than in other elections, and political opponents of the ruling Cambodian People's Party cite this as proof of election tampering.

The National Election Committee has said voter lists will be posted until Oct. 20, so that people have a chance to rectify discrepancies, but opponents have said this puts an unfair burden on the people.