About 500 Cambodians have registered as observers for the June commune elections, falling well short of the more than 20,000 that civil society groups are hoping for, while not a single foreigner has signed up yet, the National Election Committee (NEC) said on Tuesday.
Since registration opened on February 15, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia had registered 300 observers, said NEC spokesman Hang Puthea, while the government-aligned Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, the ruling party’s youth wing, had registered another 200.
Mr. Puthea said no observers from the international community had registered, though he was optimistic they would before the May 30 deadline. The deadline for Cambodians is May 24.
“It seems to be their habit that when it’s close to the deadline foreign observers come to register,” he said, adding that at least 100 foreigners registered as observers for the 2012 local polls.
The spokesman said civil society groups agreed that 23,000 observers would be needed during the June 4 elections. The government has set aside a budget of $50 million to fund the election, together with $20.4 million coming from overseas—$12 million from China, $7.2 million from the E.U. and $1.2 million from Japan.
This will pay for everything from a new digital voter registration system to transport, ballot boxes and booths, Mr. Puthea said. The NEC also plans to recruit more than 90,000 officials for various roles in facilitating the election in the coming weeks, he added.
Sam Kuntheami, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he met on Tuesday with representatives from the U.S., E.U., Australia and Japan, which had committed to registering a total of 200 monitors between them.
U.S. Embassy deputy spokesman David Josar last night said no decisions about monitoring the elections had been made. The E.U. said in an emailed statement that it would not be providing observers, but planned to send a small number of experts to follow the process, subject to the agreement of Cambodian authorities.
sokhean@cambodiadaily.com, hawkins@cambodiadaily.com
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