Reforming the democratic system, including possible reforms to the National Election Committee, will take centre stage at a forum to be held by the end of the year, the government announced yesterday.
The meeting will include national and international political parties and civil society representatives in a debate over the future of democracy in Cambodia, which the government statement said would be “in accordance with the principles of pluralist liberal democracy and the rule of law”.
“The Royal Government would like to call for compatriots and the international community to support this vital reform process for the sake of peace, stability, democracy and development in Cambodia for more robust and continual progress,” it added.
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua yesterday cautiously welcomed the news.
Election reform “is the highest priority on our agenda and for the people wanting the truth, as long as they are clear that they will carry out reforms that will address the conduct during previous elections,” she said. “We want reforms to be open to all the recommendations of the UN the EU and international organisations.”
“I think it is a positive sign.… But there has to be discussions that include the recommendations [of the international community]. It should not just be a workshop for the sake of a workshop,” Sochua added.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party signed a joint declaration in September pledging to work together on reforming the electoral system.
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said the talks would form part of a push to create a more pluralist democratic system.
“The national-level workshop is really crucial for the election reforms and it helps strengthen the implementation of pluralist liberal democracy,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at human rights group Licadho, echoed the sentiments. “The reforms should be true to make both the people and civil society have faith, because now people do not have faith in there being deep reforms [ahead],” he said.
CNRP president Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha could not be reached for comment yesterday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE