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Election group wants a more powerful NEC

An election reform lobby group has called for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to grant wide-ranging powers to a new election body.

The Election Reform Alliance and political parties that did not win seats in last year’s national election said yesterday that the parties should ensure the new National Election Committee (NEC) is empowered to hold elections in an atmosphere of transparency and peace.

Koul Panha, executive director of election monitor Comfrel, said the reformed NEC should have the ability to prevent intimidation of voters, prepare voter lists, resolve election disputes, manage its own budget independently and veto government directives during election periods.

“We want to ensure that the NEC can be independent, and it needs to have the power to arrange the election and make sure that it will not be like the current NEC,” he said. “Intimidation occurred during the declaration of the election’s result; the NEC should be able to order the troops to stand down, and it means that we want to give complete power to the NEC in preventing intimidation.”

Nhek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec party secretary-general, said that NEC members should be drawn from both senior and junior positions in the two parties and should face stiff punishments for nepotism.

Eight members of the new election body will be drawn evenly from the CPP and the CNRP, though none have been publicly nominated. The ninth, independent official is Licadho founder Pung Chhiv Kek.

CNRP lawmaker Keo Phearum said he would forward the suggestions to the leadership.

“I will bring the ideas from this discussion to the leaders of the CNRP and will include them into the negotiations with the CPP,” he said.

Ben Khin, a senior CPP official taking part in the negotiations, said the party was willing to incorporate elements of the Election Reform Alliance’s proposal into its draft, which he added was not finished yet.

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