Voter Registration Ends With 81% Enrollment

Commune office workers were ready to work until midnight last night to sign up everyone waiting in line on the last day of voter registration, set to conclude with an estimated 81 percent enrollment, election officials said.

In a news conference lauding the end of the countrywide effort, Em Sophat, one of nine members of the National Election Committee, said he was satisfied with the result, especially when compared to turnouts around the world.

National Election Committee member Em Sophat, center, speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday on the last day of voter registrations.
National Election Committee member Em Sophat, center, speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday on the last day of voter registrations.

Hang Puthea, the committee’s spokesman, said after the briefing that 97 formal complaints had been lodged with the body during the three-month registration period.

“Most cases were about procedures not being respected” by election officers, usually for refusing to issue documents to people who did not have sufficient proof of residency, and all but seven had already been resolved without infractions being found, Mr. Puthea said.

However, observers flagged several issues during the registration period, including groups of soldiers being signed up in communes where they neither lived nor were stationed, leading to accusations from the opposition CNRP that it might be an attempt to swing results in key electorates. The election committee declared in October that it was wrong for officers to have enrolled 90 soldiers in such a case in Preah Vihear province, but ultimately accepted the registrations because the soldiers could be stationed in the commune on polling day.

National Election Committee member Em Sophat, center, speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday on the last day of voter registrations. Election officials said that 81 percent of eligible voters had enrolled for next year’s commune elections, and that 97 formal complaints had been lodged with the body during the three-month registration period. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
National Election Committee member Em Sophat, center, speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday on the last day of voter registrations. Election officials said that 81 percent of eligible voters had enrolled for next year’s commune elections, and that 97 formal complaints had been lodged with the body during the three-month registration period. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The CNRP also raised the difficulties of migrant workers returning to Cambodia to register, and problems faced by groups of migrant workers who returned home from Thailand to register, but were turned away at their commune offices for insufficient documentation.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said this week that the key next steps were auditing voter lists once they were released early next year, and lobbying lawmakers to consider new provisions to enfranchise marginalized would-be voters—particularly by allowing Cambodians abroad to register and vote—ahead of the 2018 national election.

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