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NEC Official Observes Election From Inside

As America's presidential election got underway Tuesday, a member of Cambodia's National Election Committee compared notes with other officials from 40 countries in Washington.

Officials attended the conference, organized by the International Foundations for Electoral Systems, "to observe the experiences of the US election," said Sin Chum Bo, vice chairwoman of the NEC. "Common issues" including registration and other election hurdles were discussed, she said.

The Election Program offered a chance for participants to "bring back to their countries knowledge gained from their comparative international experiences," IFEC spokesman Jeff Bradley said by e-mail.

Participants observed the Nov. 4 presidential election from polling stations, Sin Chum Bo said, adding that many US experiences were not applicable to Cambodia's culture, history, laws or knowledge of the people.

She cited as examples the ability of US parties to campaign to the very end of an election, and the ability of overseas Americans to vote through absentee ballots, neither of which happen in Cambodia.

The US election had fewer observers than Cambodia, while Americans vote by touch screen computers.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said information exchanges such as this were good, but more important was how the NEC, often accused of bias, will apply the lessons.

"I think we can learn from the US," he said. "One of the most important [aspects] in the US is transparency in campaign funding. In the US each candidate opens their income and expense budget while campaigning. The NEC should push for all political parties to open."