Free and fair elections are vital to any democracy. Guaranteeing that elections are conducted fairly, openly, and in accordance with the country’s election laws, is the job of Election Day poll agents. To help Cambodia train the tens of thousands of poll agents it needs to monitor the National Assembly Election Day process, two-hundred-forty trainers from four major Cambodian political parties are themselves being trained with funding provided by the U.S. government.
Members of the Cambodian People’s Party, the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia, the Norodom Ranariddh Party and the Sam Rainsy Party are participating in poll agent training conducted by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, or NDI. NDI is a non-profit organization working to strengthen and expand democratic values worldwide. The U.S. Agency for International Development provides the funding for the NDI poll agent training.
"Democracy works best when people watch it," said Jerome Cheung, NDI Cambodia Country Director. "Political parties and candidates have their own interests at heart. This interest is a powerful motivation to ensure that the rules of the election are observed by their opponents," he said. Mr. Cheung noted that "the presence of party polling agents enhances public confidence in the polling and counting by promoting transparency and openness."
The U.S.-supported training will enable the trainers to conduct systematic observation of the polls. They will report based on a standard polling manual and checklist based on Cambodia’s National Assembly election laws, regulations, procedures and code of conduct. NDI provided similar training prior to last year’s Commune Council elections. In that election, more than one-hundred-thousand party poll agents watched the polling process. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs has invited all political parties that have officially registered for the National Assembly election July 27th to receive the party poll agent training. Other political parties will be included in the next round of training.
The integrity of the election process requires poll agents who understand the election process and are allowed to do their important work unhindered.