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March 25, 2013

Audit Finds a Degraded Cambodian Voter Registry for July Polls

by Heng Reaksmey

Election monitors say the quality of voter registration lists has degraded since 2008, leading to a lower standard in the upcoming national election in July.

The registry is less comprehensive, less accurate and less up-to-date than it was five years ago, according to a voter registration audit by the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections and the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute.

The audit found only about 64 percent of the names on the registry actually lived full time where they claimed to live. About 10 percent of the names on the list belonged to people who do not exist, the audit found. Another 11 percent of eligible voters who thought they had registered were not found on the list.

The audit found that only about 83 percent of eligible voters had registered, down from 88 percent in 2008, and in stark contrast to the National Election Committee’s claim of 102-percent registration.

The registry audit was undertaken by Nifcec volunteers in 414 communes in February, who interviewed nearly 4,900 respondents as a random sample. Interviews were checked against the national voter registry. Margin of error was 2.5 percent.

Nicfec Executive Director Hang Puthea said 10.8 percent of eligible voters in the sample who thought they had registered could not be found on the list. Another 7.8 percent who had voted in either either the 2008 national election or 2012 commune elections were not found on the registry, he said.

Tep Nitha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, disputed the findings of the audit.

Kouy Bun Roeun, an opposition lawmaker, said the decline in the quality of the 2012 registry will hurt the legitimacy of the upcoming election, scheduled for July 28.

Opposition critics have said already the apparent bias toward the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in the system and the continued exile of opposition leader Sam Rainsy are already damaging the free-and-fair standing of the election.