WASHINGTON DC —
Election monitors and other organizations in Cambodia are urging the country’s political parties to accept a number of principals in the reform of the National Election Committee.
The Cambodian People’s Party and Cambodia National Rescue Party came to a compromise in July and have been working since then to find common ground on election reform, including of the national election body—but some observers fear those compromises will lead to an NEC that is not independent.
A group of non-governmental organizations has signed onto the Election Reform Alliance, which issued a statement this week to push for the best reforms possible.
“We, the Election Reform Alliance and Civil Societies, believe that a fair NEC reform contributes to reducing current and future political tension,” the statement says. “As a result, the future government would definitely gain full legitimacy through a fair and credible election management. The legitimate government would secure political stability and peace in this kingdom.”
The alliance suggestions include having an NEC with the power to select its own independent leadership and to revise its own regulations, as well as independence in solving electoral disputes and proper oversight of the media.
The group also wants to see increased transparency during election periods, an NEC with its own budget, properly staffed polling sites and the inclusion of women and youths in the NEC. The alliance is also calling for “Khmer-born” citizenship, not “duel citizenship.”
The Election Reform Alliance issued its statement on Tuesday, following talks between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy.
The two leaders have said they have almost reached full compromise on election reforms, following July 2013 polls that the opposition says were seriously marred by fraud and irregularities.
Thida Khus, director of a women’s organization called Silaka, said many NGOs are now discussing the independence of the NEC, which should be “out of political interference from both parties, the CNRP and the CPP.”
Both sides should be seeking to remove hurdles in elections that create disputes after the polls, she said.
Hang Puthea, head of the election-monitoring group Nicfec, urged both parties to set aside their individual interests and focus on the nation, instead of trying to gain control of the NEC. “Both parties always want to control the NEC under their umbrella and their own orders,” he said.