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Concerns Over New Formula for Election Committee Selection

Cambodian workers look through a partition of a construction site below a banner which reads "Where is my vote," file photo.
Cambodian workers look through a partition of a construction site below a banner which reads "Where is my vote," file photo.

<p>Election watchdogs and small parties without seats in government are worried about a new formula for choosing the National Election Committee.</p> <p>The formula, which was part of a political deal between the ruling party and the opposition, gives each of them respectively four positions to select, while both must agree on an additional seat.</p> <p>The so-called 4-4-1 formula would create a nine-member committee, chosen by the two leading parties, but it would leave out other parties, critics say. Supporters of the formula say they hope it will balance out the needs of the opposition, which currently holds 55 of 123 seats in the National Assembly.</p> <p>Reform of the National Election Committee, which oversees elections and investigates disputes, was a primary demand of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party ahead of political agreements made with the ruling Cambodian People&rsquo;s Party last month.</p> <p>Members of an NGO coalition called the Election Reform Alliance held a roundtable in Phnom Penh alongside representatives from five small political parties that did not win seats in the 2013 election. Participants questioned whether the new formula would benefit only the ruling party and worried whether the process is transparent enough.</p> <p>Preab Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said civil society wants to see the selection process depoliticized.</p> <p>&ldquo;Rather than looking back, because they&rsquo;ve already set up the agreement, we, civil society, wish to submit new recommendations to them,&rdquo; he said. That includes having new NEC members sign vows to work independently, he said.</p> <p>Nhiek Bun Chhay, secretary-general of Funcinpec, who attended Thursday&rsquo;s meeting, said the new formula falls short of what the public wants. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s clear that they just wanted to end the deadlock and share power,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Sun Narith, a representative from the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party, said he was worried that even if the NEC is reformed, powerful political figures could still influence the committee. &ldquo;It is useless, because in Cambodia, you know, powerful people still can influence the NEC if they want,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Rescue Party lawmaker Kouy Bunroeun told VOA Khmer that the opposition is working on the issue. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll wait until new election laws and a change in the constitution are passed,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>CPP lawmaker Chheang Von said the demands of the coalition are not clear. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t understand what the ERA is thinking,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Without sharing power, how can we manage to responsibly lead the country?&rdquo;</p>