Cambodian PM Rejects Opposition Demand for Key NEC Reform

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) talks to Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (L) during the official opening ceremony of the AEON Mall in Phnom Penh, June 30, 2014.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday he would not accept a key opposition proposal for members of the country's election body to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in parliament.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has touted the proposal as key to breaking a one year old political stalemate following July 2013 general elections, in which it robbed the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of its long-running two-third majority.

“We still keep our door open for further talks but we must not talk about the two-third [majority] issue," Hun Sen said at an event in Cambodia's central province of Kampong Chhnang.

He said he had also told Fumio Kishida, the visiting foreign minister of Japan, which has promised to help Cambodia in election reforms, that "the two-third formula will kill the democratic process in Cambodia."

The CPP had agreed to a CNRP proposal to make the National Election Committee (NEC) a constitutionally mandated body.

But it has refused to accept a demand that the panel’s membership be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in parliament, insisting that it was sufficient for NEC members to be approved by just a simple majority.


A simple majority would enable the CPP to continue retaining control over who is in the panel of the NEC, which oversees all elections in the country.

It currently has its members hand-picked by Hun Sen’s government. Critics have complained it lacks independence.  

Responding to Hun Sen’s remarks, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said the party would not compromise on its demand, saying solid legislative support for the NEC panel would strengthen the country's democracy and serve the national interest.

“Hun Sen realizes that if the NEC is not under his control, he would lose power," Kem Sokha said. "He will definitely lose the elections."

He said that a simple majority would enable Hun Sen to cling on to power "his whole life."

The 61-year-old Hun Sen, who has been in power for nearly three decades, has said that he plans to continue being in politics until he is 74.


Kem Lei, a board member of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Hun Sen was reluctant to accept the CNRP proposal because he was worried of "revenge" by the opposition if CPP lost power.

“We don’t have a peaceful power transfer mechanism and CPP is concerned of loss of power. This is about the revenge culture," he said. "The CPP is trying to protect itself.”

“The best solution is to build a peaceful power transfer mechanism and Hun Sen and [CNRP president] Sam Rainsy must talk to have mutual trust."

Lao Mong Hay, a Cambodian political commentator, said that a two-third majority endorsement for the NEC members would give greater credibility to the election body.

“The more support from the National Assembly for [new NEC members], the better as the lawmakers are representatives of the voters.” he said.

Reported by So Chivi and Vuthy Huot for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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