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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia's new election body sails through assembly

Cambodia's new election body sails through assembly

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Journalists watch Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on a television screen at the National Assembly yesterday, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

In less than an hour, and without input from a quarter of its lawmakers, the National Assembly yesterday voted unanimously to approve seven members and two leaders of the National Election Committee (NEC), whose election had been virtually assured from the moment of their nomination.

As announced, the 26 opposition party lawmakers boycotted the vote, over claims of political bias within the election body toward the ruling CPP.

In yesterday’s session, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng told the National Assembly that a request filed by the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties calling for a reshuffling of NEC’s composition was rejected because it would cause “deadlock”.

“The Ministry of Interior had considered this request, [but] if [we] follow this request it would cause deadlock for establishing of the election institution and a deadlock for election,” Sar Kheng told the parliament.

“This request can affect neutrality of the election institution.” The opposition lawmakers, along with election watchdogs and rights monitors, have for years called for a reshuffle of the NEC to reflect the multi-party system.

While nominally apolitical (members must renounce party ties upon appointment), the last and new mandate feature only former members of the ruling party.

At yesterday’s vote, President Im Suosdey and Deputy President Sin Chum Bo were both re-elected to lead the committee.

Havan Sivilay, Mean Satik, Em Sophath, Som Chandina, Mao Sophearith were re-elected as members, and Sin Dem and Sor Suphary elected to replace two members whose term had expired.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Suosdey defended the NEC’s composition, saying its activity spoke for itself.

“At what point has NEC activity been biased? We can talk,” he said.

But for opposition parliamentarians and election monitors, the answer has been apparent and oft-repeated.

“If we select an arbitrator in a sports match, there would be agreement from all parties. If that arbitrator was selected by one side, it means that [he] has a trick; he does not want to have a free and just outcome.

"So this election is not honorable and the winner is not honorable as well,” SRP spokesman and lawmaker Yim Sovann said.

Puthea Hang, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said he was wholly unsurprised by the outcome, saying that there was “nothing strange” about the parliament’s approval and adding that it was a strategy to ensure the ruling party did well in the 2013 election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at sokchea.meas@phnompenhpost.com

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