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Voter Registration Remains Complicated for Citizens: Expert

A Cambodia elections expert says voter registration remains complicated for everyday citizens and puts more burden on them than the state.

Cambodia also lacks a single database for the population, further complicating the process, said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Thursday.

“Some countries apply this system, a system where people do not have the obligation to register,” he said. “They organize a system to check the database and the age of people in order to place their names on a voting list” and inform them where they will vote, he said.

“But Cambodia still puts the obligation on people who have turned 18 to register,” he said.

The National Election Committee announced Thursday it hoped to register some 300,000 new voters between October and the end of the year, adding to the 8.3 million voters already registered, following an annual voter survey.

“Our registration is done every year,” Koul Panha said. “Those who are eligible to register and those who have no name on the register will have to register to vote.” That also includes people who have changed their address or have been taken off the register.

However, in other countries a database, birth certificate and other vital records clearly define voters, he said.

Cambodia’s system has led to problems in the past, he said.

In the 2008 national election, nearly 400,000 voters have problems, where they either did not see their names on the voter register or were incorrectly registered, leading to disillusionment and the loss of votes, he said.

Meanwhile, one agency’s list may differ from another.

“The NEC has their own database, and the Ministry of Interior, they have their own database, and we don’t define a clear identification of one individual,” he said. “That has caused voter lists of poor quality and made names wrong, or lost, and then people don’t get their right to vote.”

Cambodia is preparing for local-level commune council elections in 2012, with parliamentary elections the following year. Some election experts have called for the elimination of the old voter register and a creation a new, more credible list.

Koul Panha said people could also have their own identification number to avoid confusion or names dropped from the register.