PHNOM PENH —
Local elections will be held in June next year, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in a decision signed earlier this month.
The decree, signed by Hun Sen on May 24, sets a June 4, 2017, date for the polls, which will come a year ahead of the next general election, due in 2018.
Sam Kuntheamy, head of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, or NICFEC, said the National Election Committee (NEC) “would be a bit rushed” to complete voter registration ahead of the vote.
The announcement comes after the deputy secretary general of the NEC, Ny Chakrya, was jailed on charges of being an accomplice to bribery over his alleged involvement a defamation case against opposition deputy leader Kem Sokha.
Rong Chhun, the former president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, one of the opposition’s choices for membership of the NEC, was also recently charged with the alleged involvement in violence on Veng Sreng Boulevard in Phnom Penh during garment worker strikes in 2014.
Kuntheamy of NICFEC said while the case against Ny Chakrya would not interfere with the NEC’s role ahead of the vote, the presence of Rong Chhun would be sorely missed.
“The NEC needs nine people…any rule must be decided by an absolute majority, meaning five people, so that it’s valid,” he said. “So if there were only eight people any decision [could split the vote].”
Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman, said the body would “put its duties and responsibilities ahead of everything else.”
“The NEC was selected by parliament to fulfill duties in line with the law. The NEC doesn’t have any choice besides implementing the law,” he said.
Tep Nytha, secretary general of the NEC, has said that the elections will cost about $52 million, including voter registration, which is due to start soon.
In the last round of commune elections, in 2012, Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won 97% of the vote, making way for the CPP to control almost all of Cambodia’s local administrations.