The National Election Committee (NEC) on May 6 announced that they have nearly finished printing the ballot papers for the coming June 5 commune council elections, with the papers for just three provinces remaining to be printed.

NEC chairman Prach Chan inspected the progress of the printing operation on May 6, at a printing house in Boeung Kak I commune of the capital’s Tuol Kork district. He was joined by around 40 people from several political parties, NGOs and the media.

Speaking while visiting the printing house, Chan said the NEC had invited all relevant stakeholders in the elections to see the papers and the printing process, as had been done in previous elections.

“Only three more provinces remain for which the ballot papers need to be printed. The papers will then be boxed and transported to those provinces, where they will be handed over to the provincial election commissions which will distribute them to the commune election commissions.

“The commune council commissions will send them to election stations no more than 36 hours before the June 5 elections,” he said.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea told reporters at the printing house that there are a total of 1,652 types of form – one for each of the Kingdom’s communes. The ballot papers are different from one commune to another because the number of participating political parties for each commune varies and the number of candidates is also different.

He said that of the 17 participating political parties, some have candidates in more than 1,600 communes, while others are contesting less than 1,000. The order that political parties appear on each ballot paper is different too, as it was decided by draws conducted in each commune.

According to Puthea, there are 9,205,681 eligible voters and 23,602 election stations. This required about 11 million printed ballot papers, including around one million reserved papers. The papers are printed in the form of a cluster, with 50 papers for each cluster.

“The papers are carefully designed so they cannot be forged. The company that won the contract to print these papers has guaranteed the safety of these papers to the NEC,” he said.

Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) spokesman Loek Sothea said on May 8 that the NEC had invited all political parties to see the logos of each party to ensure their accuracy.

“We saw to it that there were no errors, as we held many consultative meetings. We have sent letters to the NEC many times, urging them not to print more forms than are needed because it only wastes money and those papers could be used in the wrong way,” he said.

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections (NICFIC) echoed Sothea’s concerns about the budget being wasted on printing more ballot papers than were needed. He said only two to three per cent of additional papers should be printed.

“The ballot papers at each election station are rarely damaged. Voters understand the seriousness of the democratic process and do not tick the wrong candidate and then ask for another paper. There are too many ballots being printed – they are expensive and we have hired a private company to print them. The money should be saved and used for other things,” he said.

Som Sorida, another NEC spokesman, brushed off such concerns. He told The Post on May 8 that the extra papers are being printed to ensure the election goes smoothly. There cannot be a shortage of ballot papers on election day, he added.

“There should be no concerns that the papers could be used for other purposes, because the NEC ensures transparency throughout the whole election process. At election stations there are political agents, NGOs and election monitors. Ballot papers will be accurately recorded there,” he said.