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NGOs Say Election Reform Deal Remains Flawed

Cambodian workers look through a partition of a construction site below a banner which reads "Where is my vote" as supporters of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party gather in Phnom Penh, file photo.

The ruling party and opposition have agreed on an election law, but civic groups on Monday said the draft is flawed and will not lead to free and fair elections.

The two sides have been negotiating over the law since July 2014, when the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party ended a boycott of the Cambodian People’s Party-led government, following 2013 elections the opposition said were marred by fraud.

Koul Panha, head of the election watchdog Comfrel, said the draft law does not prohibit soldiers and police from taking part in campaigning, in one of its many weaknesses.

As part of the deal, the National Assembly gains two more seats for competition, from 123 to 125, and campaigning will be reduced from 30 to 21 days.

NGOs, meanwhile, are banned from “insulting” political parties—another concern for critics of the draft.

The National Assembly must still approve the draft before it can be signed into law.