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Civic Groups Meet To Make Improved Election Recommendations

Ministry of Interior officials will meet with a delegation of opposition leaders this week to discuss complaints of political bias at the National Election Committee, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - Civic groups in Cambodia gathered on Monday to discuss formal recommendations to the National Election Committee, to improve the election environment ahead of July’s national parliamentary polls.

Human rights groups and election monitors say they want an impartial and transparent election and are concerned with how the NEC has recruited local staff at the provincial and commune level.

Local groups and international donors, including the US, have urged the National Election Committee to improve its election regulations and procedures. The opposition says the NEC is stacked with supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, impeding fair elections.

The groups who met Monday came up with 16 recommendations for the NEC, including the establishment of a monitoring policy to watch over the recruitment of local NEC staff, to regulate election law and to ensure that political party supporters are allowed to post party signs—a major election strategy in impoverished areas, where literacy and access to media are low.

Koul Panha, head of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said members of the provincial and commune election committees can come from civil service, political parties or members of civil society, and that a balance could help ensure independence of the local bodies.

“But it’s not applied,” he said.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said NGOs and political parties must submit recommendations by Jan. 24, after which the NEC will meet to discuss them.

“Once that is done, it will serve as a rule for the coming general election, July 2013,” he said.