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More Election Reform Needed, Expert Says

Ok Serei Sopheak, a governance specialist, talks on Hello VOA radio call-in show, file photo.
Ok Serei Sopheak, a governance specialist, talks on Hello VOA radio call-in show, file photo.

Cambodia is running almost out of time to reform the election body, while controversy over voter registration remains, an expert says.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party cut a deal in July, ending a near year of political deadlock in the wake of 2013 elections. But the promised reforms that were a part of that deal have been slow in coming.

Among those electoral mechanisms needing reform is the voter registration, which the opposition says is missing many names of its supporters, while containing names of “ghosts” loyal to the ruling party.

The current debate over the list is whether it should be updated from the existing registrations or overhauled entirely, governance specialist Ok Serei Sopheak says. That dilemma has not been solved, he said, and time is short.

“This is very significant,” he told “Hello VOA” on Monday. “If the voter list is not accurate, the election won’t be credible.”

Cambodia is moving toward local elections in 2017, and national elections the year after, leaving not much time to revamp the registration, he said.

The registration should be put online, to increase its transparency and to keep it up to date for the elections, he added.

Meanwhile, a new draft law on the formulation of the National Election Committee, another key reform area, bans members from holding dual citizenship.

Ok Serei Sopheak said Monday that such a policy doesn’t solve much.

“Those who only hold single citizenship have committed lots of wrongdoings against our people and country,” he said. “Why don’t we focus on that? Those who hold dual citizenship have given up luxuries and good jobs overseas to come and serve the nation. They have given up a lot to help [our] country. Therefore, this should be acknowledged.”

Members of the NEC can belong to a political party, which will make it hard to prevent their allegiance to the party line, he said. So the main way to judge their work should be through a transparency of NEC operations, he said.

“Making their work transparent is the main principle of good governance on which we can judge their performance,” he said.