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Election Officials Appeal to Cambodians To Register To Vote

An election worker calls votes off a ballot as election observers look on through a window, (file photo).

Some 600,000 people still need to register, according to election officials.

WASHINGTON DC - Election officials and monitors say Cambodians will need to double check their voter registration in September to make sure they are prepared for national parliamentary elections next year.

Some 600,000 people still need to register, according to election officials. Another 140,000 names need to be scratched from lists, including those of the deceased and anyone with a major criminal record. The 42-day registration period begins Sept. 1.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said he wants Cambodians who have turned 18 and are now eligible to vote to register during that period. It’s also a good time for people to check voter registries for problems and update information.

Puthea Hang, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the NEC has done a lot to improve the registration process, but many problems still occur at the local level. “The authorities in some places do not pay great attention yet,” he said. “This year I think the NEC will have new, additional measures to push for a clear voter list.”

The voter registry is critical to the election, as only those people with their names on the list can actually vote in the July 2013 polls, which select members of parliament. The predominate party then selects ministers, prime minister and other critical positions in the executive branch.

The July 28, 2013, elections will be the fifth round of general elections and will include the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and a new opposition, the Cambodian National Rescue Party. Past elections have been marred with accusations of voter fraud, intimidation and corruption.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the NEC’s registration system is too complicated for many people, which drives away some voters. People are weary of checking their names on the lists every year, as some names are lost, go missing or are inaccurate. That has led to decreased voter turnouts since the first election, in 1993.

The 2008 elections, which saw a sweeping victory of the CPP, had a turnout of about 60 percent. The CPP has 90 of 123 National Assembly seats, more than a two-thirds majority, which has led to fears that Cambodian is leaning toward a one-party system without checks and balances.

More than 9 million people are currently eligible to vote, of a population of 14 million. The national elections are important, Koul Panha said, because they determine who is in power at the national level.