PHNOM PENH —
The National Election Committee says it will finalize voting procedures and begin working on an updated voter registry this month, in advance of local elections next year.
Completion of voter registration will take place in May through July, Hang Puthea a member and spokesman for the NEC told reporters.
The voter registration has been a major subject of criticism in the past, with the opposition claiming many of its supporters are unable to vote.
Hang Puthea said the NEC has found fixes to the registration system, as well as other improvements for the upcoming election, including a plan to install generators to provide electricity to the new system, for taking photos and scanning thumbprints.
The fixes came from input by other stakeholders, following consultations in January, he said, and are “in line with the law and recommendations that are workable.”
The January consultation looked at a number of issues, including voter identification, voter registries and technical aspects of Election Day. Some political observers fear the fixes will not be done in time for the 2017 commune elections.
Sam Kuntheamy, head of the election monitoring group Nicfec, welcomed the NEC attempts, but he said they could be thwarted by timing, such as the purchase of equipment and the recruitment and training of personnel.
“These two issues are complex,” he said. “Previously, I received information that they haven’t set a time frame for purchasing the materials, but perhaps they’ve received new information showing that the materials will arrive. The staff recruitment is also complicated and it requires more time,” he said.
Voter registration must begin in May if it is to be completed, revised and ready to go by 2017, he said.
Meanwhile, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party are preparing to get their supporters registered.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said updated voter registries should reduce public criticism of the election process. “This will close the way for complaining,” he said.
A new registration process will not hurt the CPP, he said, because support of the people has followed the party’s achievements in government. “The people maintain their support for the CPP to continue its mission in ruling the country,” he said.
Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponhearith said the party will remain wary of the voter registries, but hoped they would improve the elections. The periods before and after the vote are also important to free and fair elections, he said. “The important thing is whether the result announcement made by the NEC is true or reliable or not,” he said.
Good voter lists and identification also require proper counts, he said. “When there is doubt or the number of votes is different from each other a little bit, we can ask to recount or ask to open a safety box,” he said. “We should open it to check together. That’s what we call transparency without mystery. In the past, we asked to open this box, but they didn’t agree. We are still skeptical of these problems.”