Cambodia’s ruling and opposition parties expect to finalize a draft of the nation’s new election law by the end of the month as the centerpiece of key reforms promised in a July agreement that ended a nearly one-year political crisis, an official said Monday.
“The two parties hope to finalize the combined draft law by Sept. 29,” Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin said following Monday’s meeting between officials from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in the capital Phnom Penh.
Bin Chhin had led a CPP working team in discussions on the role of the revamped national electoral body with his CNRP counterparts.
CNRP working team chairman Kuy Bunroeun said both parties thrashed out details on the draft law aimed at regulating everything “from the top to the bottom” of the National Election Committee (NEC), which oversees polls in the country.
The two parties agreed to individually draft legislation in early August to implement voting reforms and restructure the NEC, which had declared the CPP the victor of July 2013 elections despite claims of poll fraud.
The reforms are a key part of a July 22, 2014 agreement that saw elected CNRP lawmakers return to the National Assembly, or parliament, following a 10-month boycott to protest the election results.
The two sides have already agreed to overhaul the composition of the NEC, with four members to be chosen by the CPP, four by the CNRP, and one mutually agreed upon by both groups.
On Monday, the parties met to debate articles which oversee the creation and function of NEC staff at the commune and district level, as well as those who monitor polling stations, following opposition complaints of faulty voter registration and ballot stuffing in last year’s election.
The CPP and the CNRP agreed that NEC commune- and district-level staff would be monitored by NEC provincial-level officials and that the central NEC members would be held accountable for their work, Bin Chhin said.
He said the working teams agreed that consent must be obtained from the central NEC before the services of any commune- or district-level staff members were terminated.
The two sides will not meet again until the end of the Phchum Ben festival, during which Buddhists pay respect to their deceased relatives, and which runs from Sept. 9-24.
When the draft law is finalized, it will be sent to the National Assembly for review before it can be voted into law.
Call for reforms
Election reform groups have also called for a thorough review of the country’s election laws to ensure that the voting process in new elections is just and fair.
Head of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (NICFEC), Hang Puthea, said last month that registration of voters should be undertaken by the NEC itself rather than local councils.
He also called for provisions to allow Cambodians overseas to vote and to grant election observers access to every polling office on voting day.
In addition to an agreement for broad electoral reforms and the CNRP’s return to parliament, July’s deal saw the CPP grant the opposition key parliamentary concessions while Hun Sen pledged to provide CNRP with a television broadcast license.
Reported by Ses Vansak for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.