Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - TI calls for reforms at polls



TI calls for reforms at polls

People search a registration list for their names in Prey Veng province in 2013 during the national elections.
People search a registration list for their names in Prey Veng province in 2013 during the national elections. A new computerised voter registration system began trials earlier this year in a select number of locations. Vireak Mai

TI calls for reforms at polls

Low-income factory workers and illiterate citizens risk being left behind in the country’s voter registration process if current policies remain unchanged, Transparency International Cambodia warned yesterday, as it forwarded a list of recommendations to the National Election Commission.

Civil society groups had until yesterday to submit feedback on the proposed regulations governing voter registration.

Among its laundry list of suggestions, TI called for sweeping changes to the NEC’s complaint-lodging process, including clarifying certain vague clauses and creating dissemination campaigns to better spread voting information to the public.

Additionally, TI demanded that voters, such as garment factory workers living in rented apartments with no written lease agreements be afforded a way to register to vote by the Ministry of Interior.

“With regard to voters living in rented apartments… it has come to our attention that there was great difficulty for tenants in obtaining written lease agreements from their landlords,” TI Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said yesterday at a press event, adding that this inability to prove residency makes it especially difficult for workers who don’t hold ID cards to register to vote.

Kol also highlighted the difficulties that Cambodia’s “vulnerable groups”, such as illiterate residents, face both in registering to vote as well as filing complaints with the NEC.

“For example, to file a complaint, they would need to fill out some form and then deliver that form to the relevant officials,” he said after the conference.

“In the case that they are illiterate, they cannot fill out the form by themselves – there is no arrangement that would help them.”

Kol also voiced his support for changing the conflict resolution process in commune councils from an absolute majority vote – commonly known as 50 per cent plus one – to a two-thirds majority vote in order to counter any domination by one political party in certain areas.

Kol aired hope that the commission will “enable every eligible voter to easily register” and “continue to consult civil society more and more widely” as the process continues.

Koul Panha, executive director of local election watchdog Comfrel, said registering to vote should be an inclusive process that is not weighed down by patronage networks and corrupt officials.

“I think our government is not very pro-poor, and that’s why it’s hard for [the poor] to access services such as identification cards,” he said.

“If you go through the government, you’re going to have to wait, since corruption is such an issue.”

Panha reiterated that the identification issue is “very important,” especially when Cambodians working outside of the country are considered, as they often don’t have the necessary documents to partake.

“We are concerned about workers in Cambodia, and also those working abroad,” he said.

“The election law only allows those who come back to register, and many of them don’t have IDs.”

Meanwhile, independent political analyst Ou Virak said that while many of the suggestions issued may be aimed at “stacking the deck” in favour of the opposition, the recommendations by civil society organisations can be boiled down to a general lack of trust in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the government at large.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if civil society is cooking up a formula to guarantee proportionality,” he said.

“Generally, there is a lot of mistrust of the government, the CPP, so some of the recommendations may reflect that.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and