Archive for April 9th, 2007

Wednesday, 4.4.2007: Eight Civil Society Organizations Said The Elections Were So Confusing That The Number Of Voters Declined

Posted on 9 April 2007. Filed under: Week 502 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 502

“In the afternoon of 3 April 2007, eight civil society organizations held a joint press conference to evaluate events during the Commune Council Elections of 1 April 2007. In the conference, representatives from each organization raised irregularities related to the Commune Council Elections, which were caused by a lack of clarity in the management of the elections; therefore, there was a strong decline in the number of voters.

“Mr. Thun Saray, the director of the local human rights group Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC, said that, as a monitor of the Commune Council Elections, he met a number of irregular events himself. For example, some people took their voters’ information leaflets, and they were allowed to vote at once, but other people who took these leaflets were not allowed to vote, unless they had also identification cards or other identity cards. These problems made people hesitant and reluctant to go to vote. Other problems, such as not having their names on the voters’ lists, or having been assigned to a changed voting station without being informed in advance, made it difficult for people to understand what to do.

“Ms. Pong Chhiv Kek, [Dr. Kek Galabru], the President of the local rights group Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO, said that in Siem Reap, there were up to nine members of one family who did not go to vote. As far as she knew, that family had not changed their residence, but they could not find their names on the voting lists. When they asked officials of the National Election Committee [NEC], no one answered them, and then all nine of them decided to return home without voting.

“Besides the problems above, there were still many other problems such as setting up posts to check and monitor the electorate.

“The process of these Commune Council Elections is a further step to strengthen democracy and good local government in Cambodia. However, the civil society organizations which participated in monitoring the elections expressed their regret that the rate of voters declined by 20% compared to the rate in 2002. According to a preliminary report, this indicated that only about 60% to 70% among the 7.7 million registered voters came to vote. In 2002, over 86% of voters went to vote. Civil society organizations were disappointed that about 30% to 40% (equal to approx. 2,500,000) of those who had voting rights did not go to vote or encountered difficulties with complicated procedures during the election. There were many obvious problems: for example, a number of voters who did not receive the leaflets with voters’ information were reported to be confused, assuming that they had no voting rights. Additionally, some people went to vote, but they met difficulties because they did not receive clear information about their assigned voting station, and they had problems with wrong information related to documents to verify identities and names in voters’ lists, and so on. What confused some voters also was that voting cards were no longer used.

“Even though the management of the election process did not encounter so serious irregularities that they might obstruct the counting of votes in any of the offices, election monitors found a number of irregularities.

“One day before election day, on 31 March 2007, the climate was quiet. However, there were violations of many orders and procedures, especially doing campaigning, activities of vote buying by providing money, offering presents and other materials, organizing small parties for the electorate in a number of communes – for example in Poipet – and abnormal activities of mobilizing armed forces – for example representatives of the authorities and policemen rode their motorbikes without headlights at night (Takeo) which surprised villagers, and deploying many armed forces (Battambang), and sending police in uniform (up to 90 policemen) to vote – for example, in Baray, Kompong Thom. A hand grenade exploded near the house of a Sam Rainsy Party activist in Samaki Meanchey, Kompong Chhnang, but no one was injured. Concerning this case, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections – COMFREL – is conducting an investigation in cooperation with other human rights organizations.

“Irregularities that occurred often in many voting stations were related to the organization and functioning of the election:

  • Voting station officials’ political discrimination, and lack of attention to assist voters to look for the locations of their assigned voting stations, names, and serial numbers, which made the people return home without voting.
  • Continued presence of representatives of the local authorities, and of armed forces, at district and commune levels, especially village authorities, around voting stations, which could influence voters, for example including instructing voters how to mark the ballots.
  • There were large scale preparations for the transportation of voters, made by some political party activists, especially from the ruling party.
  • “Some officials at voting stations did not understand the electoral procedures and guidelines very well, and they were careless, for example, some voters who had only leaflets with voters’ information were allowed to vote in a number of places, and some officials at other voting stations required voters to have such leaflets with voters’ information as a condition to be allowed to vote. Other officials at voting stations needed to first look for the code numbers of voting stations on observers’ cards before allowing them to enter voting stations to observe, or they put pressure on NGO observers and political party agents to sit at only one place without moving around to observe all activities in the offices. Some political party agents and observers were forced to sign the forms on the records of election results before the election were closed, leaving uncertainties in identifying the validity of the votes.

    “The Committee for Free and Fair Elections – COMFREL, the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections – NICFEC, the Youth Council of Cambodia, and the People’s Forum on Cambodia, from Japan [having participated as election observers], continue to investigate the cases of various irregularities, and appealed to the NEC to pay attention to solving complaints transparently, also in a number of communes where less than 50% of the electorate went to vote, and there were many irregularities, such as in Poipet, and in other communes in Phnom Penh.” Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3007, 4.4.2007

    Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
    Wednesday, 4 April 2007

    Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1308, 4.4.2007

    • Samdech Hun Sen Claimed That There Is Stability In The Election Results, And He Is In Favor To Continue To Be In Partnership With Funcinpec [stated in a forum on the Asian economy in the 20th century]
    • In February 2007, There Were 26 Victims, Killed By Mines And Unexploded Ordnance

    Khmer Mekong, Vol.5, #256, 3-4.4.2007

    • Analysis: Why Did The Opposition Party Lose Seats In The Economic Zones? [in three communes in Phnom Penh and in Poipet in Banteay Meanchey, some leaders of the Sam Rainsy Party were accused of nepotism, and possible involvement in corrupt practices]
    • Officials Of The Ministry Of Land Management, Urbanization, And Construction Took From US$1,200 To US$2,000 Per Hectare From Citizens In Dangkor

    Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3127, 4.4.2007

    • Embassies And Foreign Observers Do Not Dare To Evaluate The Situation Of The Commune Council Elections Yet [because of irregularities]

    Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4253, 4.4.2007

    • Prince Norodom Ranariddh Met Mr. Sam Rainsy [the opposition party leader] After The Elections To Gather Forces [to seek a joint strategy to create a movement of democrats and patriots to compete with the Cambodian People’s Party]
    • The KMTL Company Did Not Provide Rations Of Rice To The Army As Contracted

    Reach Seima, Vol.2, #174, 4.4.2007

    • [Mr. Kumaoka Michiya] President of the Japan International Volunteer Center, Declared To Claim Again Funds for Registering The Electorate Anew [because of irregularities, such as names missing in voters’ lists etc.]

    Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3007, 4.4.2007

    • Eight Civil Society Organizations Said That The Elections Were So Confusing That The Number Of Voters Declined
    • The Election Victory Of The Ruling Party Gives Hope To Yuon [Vietnamese] Immigrants That They Can Live Illegally In Khmer Territory

    Go to last week’s editorial

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