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Commune vote smooth but not perfect, says watchdog

Anfrel Secretary General Rohana Hettiarachchie speaks to the press during a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Anfrel Secretary General Rohana Hettiarachchie speaks to the press during a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh. Niem Chheng

Commune vote smooth but not perfect, says watchdog

Asian election monitor Anfrel yesterday commended authorities, citizens and political parties for Sunday’s smooth commune elections, but stopped short of calling the ballot “free and fair”, raising concerns over the heightened political rhetoric in the run-up to June 4.

At a press conference yesterday, the body said it had 15 election observers and 21 volunteer observers scattered across 13 provinces and 151 polling stations. The mission’s leader, Rohana Hettiarachchie, said turnout (89.5 percent, per the NEC), voter registration and ballot counting had been acceptable – despite needing improvements – but challenges remain ahead of the 2018 national elections.

He added that election officials’ training was lacking at certain polling stations, and also highlighted the need for a legal framework for campaign finance monitoring, and the importance of an independent NEC. “The more independent the NEC, the more credible the elections,” he said.

Deputy mission leader Ichai Supriadi said a smooth election did not mean a “free and fair” election, pointing to the threats by government and military officials in the lead-up to the vote.

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