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Constitution Amended To Strengthen ‘Independent’ Election Body

  • Heng Reaksmey
  • VOA Khmer

Empty seats, right side, which is believed to be sited by opposition of Cambodia National Rescue Party's parliamentary as Prime Minister Hun Sen, rear center, sits in the session hall of National Assembly, file photo.

Empty seats, right side, which is believed to be sited by opposition of Cambodia National Rescue Party's parliamentary as Prime Minister Hun Sen, rear center, sits in the session hall of National Assembly, file photo.

Lawmakers at the National Assembly on Wednesday voted to amend Cambodia’s constitution, making the National Election Committee a mandated “independent body.”

The amendment says the NEC’s Steering Committee must work to ensure the independence of the election body. Its nine members will have a five-year mandate and cannot be politically affiliated or be leaders of other organizations or unions.

The amendment is a step toward election reforms that were demanded by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party following polls in 2013 it says were marred by fraud.

One hundred and twenty of 123 lawmakers took part in Wednesday’s session, which amended Article 76, chapters 15 and 16, of the constitution.

The amendment calls for an NEC that is independent and neutral and tasked with implementing free elections “in accordance with the principle prerequisites of democracy, freedom and pluralism.”

Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy told reporters after the session that the NEC amendment was a step toward full electoral reform.

“We still have more steps to do, such as a new election law and redoing voter registration lists,” he said.

Chheang Von, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Wednesday’s session demonstrated “a new culture” of cooperation between the two parties.

But Koul Panha, head of the election-monitoring group Comfrel, remained wary. “This is only the first step to reforming the NEC body,” he said. “We need to see how an independent election law is established, how the internal election body is, and so on.”

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