Parties gear up for the elections

Taing Vida / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Souk Bunkok, right, head of the National Election Committee, addresses a meeting. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Political parties are scrambling to complete their internal processes and register ahead of this year’s commune elections, which are to be held in June.
 
The National Election Committee (NEC) will be accepting registration applications for all parties’ candidates from March 3 to 5.
 
While unsure of the exact number of political parties wanting to register for the commune elections, NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea said he thought there would be about four to five.
 
He added that registered parties are entitled to submit their candidates along with a reserve candidate according to the number of positions they now had, while other parties may submit candidates depending on the size of their local headquarters.
 
A notice the ruling CPP dated February 7, stated that the party had completed its local party committee congress, which saw members cast anonymous votes for the commune candidates of their choice.
 
The announcement of the official candidates will be made on March 3 when the party officially registers with the NEC.
 
CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said, however, he was unsure of the number of party members who will contest in the election.
 
Two spokesmen for the main opposition CNRP could not be reached for comment, but opposition member Eng Chhay Eang said last week that more than 90 percent of the selection process was complete when the party encountered numerical errors.
 
Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP) secretary-general Sam Inn said the party had selected candidates to contest 17 communes of the 20 the party was eyeing.
 
“Because the GDP is a newly formed party we have very few members, but we are now trying to gather more people and build more local headquarters to give more candidates a chance in the election,” Mr. Inn said.
 
Commune elections are scheduled to be held on June 4. Each commune will be headed by one commune chief as well as five to 11 members, depending on the size of the constituency.
 
Both the CPP and CNRP last month expressed dissatisfaction after the NEC published draft rules that will govern the local elections, with the CPP asking that campaigning by civil society groups be restricted, while the CNRP asked for more space for political campaigning as well as improvements for its recount mechanism.
 
In 2012, the CPP won more than 1,500 of the 1,633 communed, while the CNRP won only 40.
 
The Constitutional Council also yesterday dismissed 78 complaints made by the opposition, which claimed that hundreds of Vietnamese nationals had illegally registered as voters. The dismissal cannot be appealed as it was done at the final stages of the review process.
 
The NEC’s Mr. Puthea said the NEC will validate new voter lists on Sunday.
 
However, CNRP head of election monitoring Meng Sopheary expressed disappointment over the decision, saying the hearing should focus on the original nationalities of the individuals named in the complaints, as opposed to what was stated on their ID cards.
 
She added that many Vietnamese nationals are able to obtain Cambodian ID cards after having lived in the kingdom for a long time.
 
“The CNRP hopes the government will examine the original nationality of voters and not just decide based on their ID cards as many voters have confessed to being Vietnamese,” Ms. Sopheary said.
 
“We will look into the possibility of seeking help from the Interior Ministry to investigate the irregularities in the issuing of ID cards,” she added.
 
The CNRP’s many complaints claimed that more than 5,000 names on the voter roll needed to be delisted as they were Vietnamese nationals.
 
The party said the ID cards these individuals used to register may have been illegally issued, but provided little evidence to support their claims, apart from pointing out that some voters could not speak Khmer.
 
On January 3, the NEC made public its new voter registration list in a bid to promote transparency, but subsequently removed 8,000 duplicate names that were found.
 
The NEC also claimed its website was hacked that same day after users were unable to access the site.
 
The new voter lists were announced by the NEC in late November and showed that 80 percent of the country had registered to vote, with almost 1.7 million people being left off voter rolls.

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