WASHINGTON DC - Opposition lawmakers say they will boycott a National Assembly special session this week, where it is expected to approve the staffing for the contentious National Election Committee.
Opposition officials say the committee is stacked with members and supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
The NEC, an independent government body of appointees selected by the Ministry of Interior, has long shouldered allegations that its decisions and policies favor the ruling party.
By law, the body must be formed and approved ahead of general parliamentary elections, which take place every five years.
The NEC has nine members, including two each who ostensibly belong to Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.
The rest are composed of members of the Cambodian People’s Party.
Opposition spokesmen said Tuesday they would not put their stamp of approval on the NEC and will not attend the special session on Thursday.
The CPP holds 90 of 123 seats, enough to meet and pass legislation, making the opposition boycott largely symbolic.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yiep said the NEC has consistently served well in past elections and there is no reason to reshuffle its members. The opposition has accepted election results in the past, he said.
If NEC members “have faults, people can file a complaint to the Constitutional Council and to the courts,” he said. “And if the Constitutional Council sees the errors, then that can be changed. If they do nothing wrong, or the football team wins and has good players, this team should be kept.”
A government source told VOA Khmer that two retired CPP members will be replaced with two other CPP members, while the chairman of the NEC, Im Suosdey, himself a member of the CPP, will retain his position.
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, told VOA Khmer the NEC allows elections fraught with “vote-buying, fraud, intimidation, threats and restriction of state media.”
“That’s why, from one term to the next, the problems are the status quo,” he said. He pointed to recommendations by the UN’s human rights envoy, Surya Subedi, who has called for election reforms to ensure free and fair polling in the future. A proper NEC should be agreed upon by the ruling and opposition political parties with parliamentary seats, he said.
The Ministry of Interior rejected such reforms in a meeting in September.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the selection of the election committee should be transparent and public, to avoid horse trading or accusations of bias. After such a body is agreed upon, it would be difficult for parties to make legitimate complaints over its structure, he said.