The National Election Committee (NEC) expressed a renewed sense of optimism in its recent meeting with representatives from Japan.

Their hope is that the Japanese government will further assist the body in updating the registration systems for the forthcoming elections in 2026, given that the existing voter registration materials have been in use for a decade.

This sentiment was communicated during a meeting on July 20 between NEC's Hang Puthea and Naoto Sakaguchi, chairman of the International Election Observation Team from Japan.

Naoto Sakaguchi, along with seven colleagues, was in Cambodia to discuss the electoral process in the country, which has a "rich, complex history".

Following the meeting, the NEC issued a press release detailing the discussions. It highlighted Sakaguchi's long-standing connection with Cambodia, dating back 31 years to when he was a volunteer during the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) era. Since then, Sakaguchi has had a distinguished career, having been a member of the Japanese parliament for two terms.

"The participation of the International Election Observation Delegation from Japan at this time was not on behalf of the Japanese government. My team and I are from a non-governmental organisation based in Japan. In this meeting, I was eager to understand and had questions regarding the 2023 parliamentary election," the press release quoted Naoto Sakaguchi as saying.

In response, Puthea offered a historical overview of Cambodia's electoral process. He elaborated on the first election, which was administered by UNTAC. Since 1998, however, Cambodia has independently conducted its own elections. The NEC has so far overseen 16 general and local elections.

Despite these achievements, Puthea emphasised the need for technological and logistical advancements to keep up with the evolving needs of the electoral process.

Hence, he expressed hope that Sakaguchi, through his international election observers, will inform the Japanese government about the necessity for additional assistance in updating the voter registration system for the 2026 elections.

As Cambodia navigates the process of conducting free and fair elections, it looks to international partners like Japan for support.

The collaboration between the NEC and international observers like Sakaguchi signifies the country's ongoing commitment to democratic processes, he said.

Meanwhile, the call for updated voter registration systems underlines the critical need for digital tools and innovative approaches to ensure a more efficient, transparent and reliable electoral process in the future.