Cambodia’s opposition and ruling parties have completed 90 percent of a draft law to reform the country’s electoral body, officials said Monday following talks.
Revamping the National Election Committee (NEC), which oversees the country’s elections, was a key component of a deal struck in July between the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to end a long-running political standoff following disputed elections a year earlier.
CNRP working group member Eng Chhay Eang told RFA’s Khmer Service Monday that working groups from the two sides had made “good progress” in their discussions and that the remaining 10 percent of the draft law would likely be finalized at their next meeting scheduled for Nov. 11.
“The working groups will meet again one last time,” he said.
“[If no final agreement is reached], the remaining issues will be put forward to the parties’ leaders to decide.”
Eng Chhay Eang declined to provide details about the remaining 10 percent of the draft that the teams were unable to agree on, saying that to do so would be “unethical” and could hamper progress on the proposal.
But he said that the two sides were very close to full agreement on the draft, which he said contained around 60 articles.
Once agreed upon, the draft will have to be discussed and approved in parliament.
Another member of the CNRP’s working team, who spoke with RFA on condition of anonymity, said that the remaining differences between the ruling and opposition groups were related to the selection of the powerful posts of NEC secretary general and deputy secretary general.
He did not elaborate.
Bin Chhin, leader of the CPP working group, could not be reached for comment on the draft.
Call for transparency
Koul Panha, director of local election watchdog Comfrel, told RFA that work on the draft law had been dragging on too long and accused the two parties of “competing for political benefits” instead of working to complete it.
He also called for more transparency in the draft process.
“If they have agreed about 90 percent of the draft law, they should reveal it to the public,” he said.
Koul Panha said he had learned the draft law would require candidates to have a minimum of five years working in the NEC in order to serve as the body’s secretary general or deputy secretary general, but said those considered for the positions should also have experience outside of the electoral process.
He believed the draft law would also exclude people with dual citizenship from becoming candidates for the two positions.
He called on the ruling and opposition parties to allow representatives from nongovernmental organizations to participate in the draft negotiations to facilitate the process.
In July, Hun Sen agreed to implement key electoral and other reforms, including overhauling the government-appointed NEC, in a deal with opposition leader Sam Rainsy, president of the CNRP.
Following the deal, CNRP lawmakers elected in the July 2013 general elections agreed to end a nearly year-long boycott of parliament.
The main reform that had been agreed upon under the deal was the overhaul of 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.
The candidate selected by both parties, Pung Chhiv Kek, the head of the Cambodian rights group Licadho, has imposed several conditions before accepting the post, including immunity from prosecution for all NEC members.
The CPP had rejected the request for immunity, saying it was not international practice to offer such extensive protection to election organizers, but agreed to other demands such as the NEC’s financial autonomy and independence from the government.
Last month, Surya P. Subedi, the U.N.’s special envoy on Cambodian human rights, said that only when the independence of Cambodia’s judiciary, parliament and the NEC was guaranteed would the country “be on the path towards real reform.”
Reported by Tin Zakariya and Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.