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Election Reform Must Continue, Democracy Groups Warn

Hang Puthea, head of the election-monitoring group Nicfec.
Hang Puthea, head of the election-monitoring group Nicfec.

Election reform must remain a top priority for ruling party and opposition lawmakers, who continue to vie for selection of a key election institution, observers say.

Hang Puthea, head of the election-monitoring group Nicfec, said a deal struck by the two sides must be carried out, including reform of the National Election Committee and other election regulations.

Both sides have agreed so far to a formula that would create a nine-member NEC—four members selected by each party and one agreed upon by both—but that process has so far stalled, and democracy groups worry no agreement will be reached.

Hang Puthea said issues of dual citizenship of NEC members is also a problem, as well as potential nepotism and whether family members of lawmakers have been selected for the new NEC. The presidency of the NEC is also a question, he said. “That is an important point.”

Koul Panha, who heads the election-monitoring group Comfrel, acknowledged some difficulties in the selection of the NEC, because both parties want to control what is supposed to be an independent institution. That will inevitably lead to problems, he said. One way around that is to let the nine-member committee itself vote on its president, he said.

As to citizenship of the committee, Sok Touch, a political analyst, says Cambodian law allows citizens a vote—no matter whether they were naturalized at birth or not. The question of nepotism is difficult, he said, because of long-standing traditions in the culture where family members are favored over others.

Members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party are expected to meet later this month to further discuss the selection of the NEC and other reforms.