Funding for the National Election Committee would increase a massive 300 percent as the country prepares for commune and national elections in the next few years under a draft of next year’s budget approved by Cabinet yesterday.
According to the draft law, the government would increase the budget for the NEC by from $7 million to $28 million. The increase is needed to complete voter registration next year for the 2017 and 2018 elections. The NEC budget represents 1 percent of the government’s projected spending.
The spending will cover administrative costs, support election reform and finish the digital voter registration.
Hang Puthea, the NEC spokesman, said that this increase was in response to requests for more funding to handle the labor-intensive process of registration.
“After the declaration of election reform, we decided to change voter registration to an electronic version,” he said. “So we need more budget to buy computers, fingerprint scanners, cameras and other equipment.”
Mr. Puthea pointed out that the budget still may not be enough to cover the NEC’s costs associated with the new voter registration system
“Our projected costs for the official voter registration across the country are about $50 million,” he said, adding that they will have to cover 1,633 communes and register millions of people.
Mr. Puthea confirmed that the NEC will try to find additional funds, and the EU and Japan have already promised to grant more money.
“If we cannot find more funds, we still request more from the government to make our election better,” he said.
He added that even though the NEC did not get the budget they asked for, such a massive increase was a good sign that the government sees elections as a vital cost to cover.
The process of voter registration will start next year in order to finish before the commune elections in 2017, followed by the national election the following year.