Cambodia PM, opposition leader finalize election reform

Agree to draft new law on operations of election committee and to amend current election law before end of February.

Cambodia PM, opposition leader finalize election reform

World Bulletin/News Desk

Cambodian prime minister and his political opponent have finalized the details of an electoral reform plan, but some were met with criticism Saturday amid fears the election body will remain stacked with employees loyal to the ruling party.

The Cambodia Daily reported that both Premier Hun Sen and Cambodia National Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy decided during a meeting Friday to draft a new law outlining how the National Election Committee, or NEC, would operate.

It also said the current election law will be amended before the end of February.

The election committee has come under repeated fire from opposition parties and election monitoring groups for failing to conduct fair elections.

Its outdated voter registration process, for instance, is manually updated every year by local officials in communes around the country. But it is estimated that more than a million people could not vote in last year’s elections since their names were nowhere to be found on the voter list come election day.

The outcome of the election -- 68 seats for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) compared to 55 for the Cambodia National Rescue Party -- gave way to a protracted deadlock, during which opposition lawmakers-elect refused to take their seats until promises of electoral reform were granted.

One of the keystones of a July 22 deal brokered to end the deadlock was the establishment of a new election committee panel with four members each from both parties and a ninth neutral member -- Pung Chhiv Kek, the president of rights group Licadho -- who both parties agreed on.

The Daily quoted Cambodia National Rescue Party's election reform negotiator Kuoy Bunroeun as saying that his party had conceded to a Cambodian People's Party demand that the ninth person hold only Cambodian citizenship. Kek, however, also holds French and Canadian citizenship.

But the Cambodia National Rescue Party defended this capitulation by insisting that the other nationalities could technically be surrendered upon taking the post, and reclaimed once the term is complete.

Puthea Hang, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, told The Anadolu Agency on Saturday that he believes such a provision would prevent Kek from taking up the position or prove problematic in terms of securing a neutral figure to replace her.

“With the NEC, it’s a little bit of a problem; if she resigns as a member of the NEC, the CPP will appoint someone who has support for the CPP,” he said. “That means what is supposed to be neutral would not really be neutral; the CPP occupies everything.”

Hang also expressed his concerns over the 2017 commune and 2018 general elections, particularly if the election committee is controlled by two out of the country’s approximately 60 registered parties.

“It’s not a country of these two parties, but of each party of the people, so they have to focus on the other parties because the constitution talks about the rights of democracy, which doesn’t mean deleting smaller parties,” he said.

 

Last Mod: 29 Kasım 2014, 15:26
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