The National Election Committee (NEC) plans to test this year’s electoral ink on May 13, ahead of the June 5 commune council elections.
According to its May 10 press release, the NEC will demonstrate the ink at a meeting with various election stakeholders, chaired by NEC member Hel Sarath.
NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on May 11 that it was no different from the ink used in previous elections and was produced by Indian firm Mysore Paints and Varnish.
The company specialises in producing high-quality ink and has supplied it to the NEC in every election, he noted, adding that more than 30 countries including AEAN members Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore use ink produced by the firm. Outside of Asia, its clients include Nigeria and Afghanistan.
“The NEC has conducted trials on four different formulas of ink. The first had a silver nitrate level of 20 per cent and the second of 18 per cent. The third and fourth were 15 and 10 per cent concentrated, respectively,” he said.
Sorida said that following the NEC trials, it was found that the ink with a 20 per cent concentration of silver nitrate was the superior product. The dye was clearly visible, even on very dark skin and nails. It also died quickly and could not be easily washed away. These qualities were similar to the ink the NEC had previously used.
Sorida added that the NEC had ordered more than 500,000 bottles of the ink, at a cost of about $1 million. It would be used at polling stations throughout the country.
The NEC will issue two bottles per polling station, with reserves kept at the municipal and provincial election commissions and at the NEC headquarters in Phnom Penh.
Sam Sokuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), said he had not yet assessed the quality of the ink and would wait for the final NEC test results, despite the ink being from the same supplier that had been used previously.
“Let’s wait for the NEC to see if it can be easily washed away. If it is poor quality, it will be easily removed. Ideally, it will last for at least a few days,” he told The Post on May 11.
Thach Setha, vice-president of the Candlelight Party, said his party supported the use of ink that could not be removed until a day after the election. Ink that can be removed too soon would be a real concern for the election.
“We need a company that makes ink that cannot be washed off quickly. We support the use of the Indian electoral ink that was used in previous elections. There were allegations floating around at the time that it could be removed easily, but I believe they were just rumours,” he told The Post.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the party had full confidence in the NEC, which has experience in importing electoral ink.
“I think the NEC clearly knows how to assess the quality because it has experience. When it was used before, it was effective and there were no suspicions surrounding it,” he told The Post.
According to a provisional report from the Commune Election Committee, in the 23 days until May 9, voter information cards in villages and communes were distributed to 7,698,027 voters, equivalent to 83.62 per cent nationwide.