Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” on Monday that voters should choose representatives who can solve their problems and who will work for them.
“The representatives are not their parents, but their servants,” he said.
More than 9 million Cambodian voters are registered for the July 28 elections. Eight political parties are now vying for their votes, during a monthlong campaign period.
“This is an important election that will decide the future of the country,” Ou Virak said.
But he said that unlike in the US, where the executive branch changes over ever four or eight years, Cambodia’s ruling party has remained in power for decades. This has created a distance between representatives and the populace, and a power imbalance between the executive and legislative branches, he said.
“In Cambodia, the ruling party has power over lawmakers,” he said. That can mean the National Assembly works for the ministers, he said, giving the national budget as an example. “Whenever the government submits a spending request, the parliament always approves it without question.”
The winner of this year’s election will have the empower lawmakers to better serve their constituents, he said. That means allowing representatives to serve voters without worrying they could lose their jobs, he addded, referring to the recent expulsion of 29 opposition lawmakers from the National Assembly.
“We’re sorry that our law permits that,” he said. “There should be a debate to amend that provision and ensure that no power other than the people can unseat members of parliament once they are elected by popular vote. Without that, lawmakers won’t have their independence.”