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As Negotiations Continue, Election Concerns Remain

  • Heng Reaksmey
  • Suy Heimkhemra
  • VOA Khmer

At an opposition-sponsored seminar on Friday, election monitors said they remain concerned about voter identification fraud and election financing.

At an opposition-sponsored seminar on Friday, election monitors said they remain concerned about voter identification fraud and election financing.

At an opposition-sponsored seminar on Friday, election monitors said they remain concerned about voter identification fraud and election financing.

Up to 4 million voter IDs are likely currently expired, a large number for voters who must pay administrative costs for new identification, in a system open to irregularities.

Koul Panha, head of the election-monitoring group Comfrel, said Friday that IDs should be issued for life, not expire after 10 years, which would cut down on corruption.

Election financing remains a concern, with the Cambodian People’s Party outspending the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party nearly fivefold: $15 million in 2013, compared to the opposition’s $3.5 million, Koul Panha said.

Opposition members say election finance regulation is important, but not as much as reform of the National Election Committee, the government’s regulation body, which is viewed as politically biased toward the ruling party.

Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy said Friday that without a reformed National Election Committee resolutions of ongoing election problems is not possible.

Meanwhile, the two sides continue to negotiate over election reforms.

The UN’s human rights envoy to Cambodia on Thursday welcomed the points of agreement reached by the rival political parties, but he said he remains concerned over official crackdowns on demonstrations.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party negotiated this week in an effort to break a political deadlock in place since the July 2013 elections, agreeing to better organize voter registration and create a law on election financing. More talks are slated for Monday.

“I welcome the agreements reached by the joint committee composed of members of the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodian National Rescue Party to proceed, among other things, on two concrete measures for electoral reforms,” the envoy, Surya Subedi, said in a statement.

However, Subedi also said a ban on public gatherings was reason for concern. Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he wants to see the ban lifted, but officials have so far not done so. “I am looking forward to seeing the ban lift effectively adopted, so that free expression and peaceful assembly could again be exercised, not at state discretion, but as a human right,” he said.

Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann welcomed Subedi’s statements—but he also said government officials need to do more to lift the ban on public gathering.

Chheang Von, a CPP member of the negotiation team, said Subedi’s statement should encourage both sides to continue to work toward a resolution. But he said demonstrations “must be done under the law.”
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