PHNOM PENH —
The ruling party and opposition are now in talks to decide on the ninth member of the National Election Committee, following a statement Tuesday from the leading candidate that she would not join the committee.
Pung Chhiv Kek, a prominent figure in Cambodia and founder of the rights group Licadho, said Tuesday she would not join the committee because it appears “impossible” for the body to remain neutral.
Her decision is a blow to the legitimacy of the NEC, which is being formed now after months of negotiations between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
In a statement Tuesday, Pung Chhiv Kek said she had been offered the position in July.
“At that time, the role of the ninth member was described to me as ‘an independent member [who] will bring to this institution the neutrality it needs to organize elections in conformity with the Constitution and the national laws,’” she said. “Today, I conclude that this task has become impossible.”
In an interview with VOA Khmer Tuesday, Pung Chhiv Kek said she is worried about the independence of the NEC, which oversees both voter registration and elections. Under the rules of the new NEC, no article stipulates whether the nine-member committee will elect a president, vice president or secretary on its own.
The law organizing the NEC should be amended, she said.
That means the CPP and Rescue Party must now nominate a new ninth member. Both parties will each select four of their own choosing, but must agree on the ninth.
Hang Puthea, head of the election monitoring group Nicfec, told VOA Khmer Tuesday he had submitted an application to be the ninth member.