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Challenges in Election System Remain

Cambodia’s election system needs the help of a more functional legal system and an independent election body, an international group said in Washington recently.

“Obviously the legal framework has to be in place,” Chad Vickery, Asia and Europe director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, told VOA Khmer. “So of course we can work on the framework of the election, we can work on the legitimacy of the voter registration, which is a real issue in Cambodia, we can work over campaign finance oversight regulation—but there are also has to be other players, there has to be economic development, there has to be civil society engagement and education.”

Cambodia is preparing for district and provincial council elections in May, where its electoral system will be tested again.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nitha said that the general elections in Cambodia have made good progress from term to term because Cambodia has its own election law with international standards.

But an independent election observer, Ma Sophal, disagreed. Cambodia “needs a lot of reform,” he said, “including true independence from the National Election Committee, and pushing to pass a law on political party financing.”

Cambodia has had four national elections since 1993, but many irregularities began in 1998, analysts say, when ballot-cheating, intimidation of voters, violence, bribes and other means were used to influence the outcome of the election.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep told VOA Khmer that Cambodia’s elections had received praise from the international community, and were just and fair. No elections are perfect, not even in the West, he said.

Opposition party president Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer by phone that the political process in Cambodia remains “dishonest.”