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Parties Want Representation in Election Committees

An election worker calls votes off a ballot as election observers look on through a window, (file photo).
An election worker calls votes off a ballot as election observers look on through a window, (file photo).

Members of Cambodia’s non-ruling parties on Tuesday demanded that at least some members be allowed onto the National Election Committee, which they accused of ruling-party bias ahead of local elections next year.

Hopefuls for council seats in 1,633 communes nationwide will vie for votes in an election environment that independent monitors say favors the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

As it does in national politics, the CPP has dominates the commune councils, holding nearly 8,000 of 11,500 seats.

Ho Vann, a lawmaker for the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party, was among those who met with NEC officials Tuesday. He said there are no opposition representatives on the National Election Committee, which is charged with ensuring fair elections and investigating complaints of unfair practices. This creates a “danger” for those parties, he said.

Opposition candidates to the provincial and national election committees saw their applications rejected by the national committee, he said, on the grounds they were not qualified.

However, he said that if each committee had a representative of each party, “our election would have “independence, transparency, effectiveness, confidence and acceptability.”

Pen Sangha, a representative of the royalist Norodom Ranariddh Party, said non-ruling parties were excluded from the committee unfairly.

However, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said the law does not require representation of parties within the committee and that the committee has violated no procedural guidelines.

Still, having parties represented in local, provincial and national committees would help the parties accept the election results, said Hang Puthea, executive director for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections.