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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Funcinpec reforms for NEC thought unlikely to succeed

Funcinpec reforms for NEC thought unlikely to succeed

The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is unlikely to accept proposals drafted by

Funcinpec legislators to amend the election law, a senior CPP MP told the Post.

Instead the CPP is drawing up its own reforms to address criticisms of

the National Election Committee, the body that oversees the country's

elections.

The current arrangement of seats in parliament means the CPP

can push through its amendments, which it is not revealing, at will. One

political observer said that could leave the country with an unreformed NEC as

it heads towards a general election in just over a year.

"Now is not the

time for [the CPP] to talk, but this draft was made by Funcinpec

parliamentarians," said the CPP's Ek Sam Ol. "I think our party needs to draft

the changes."

Reform of the country's election law is regarded by

Funcinpec, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, and many donors as the key to

increasing confidence in the NEC and its transparency ahead of the election,

scheduled for July 27, 2003.

The NEC, whose 11 member board is heavily

weighted in favor of the ruling CPP, was widely criticized for its partiality

and ineffectiveness after the commune elections in February this

year.

The CPP's Sam Ol was speaking after the National Assembly's

legislative commission held a public hearing June 14 on the proposed amendments.

The aim was to gauge the support of civil society and student associations for

Funcinpec's proposals.

Sam Ol, who is also the deputy chairman of the

legislative commission, said the CPP would send its own amendment "in the near

future" to the Assembly.

Both drafts will be considered by the Assembly,

but the CPP is thought highly unlikely to approve Funcinpec's reforms. As any

amendment requires a simple majority vote, the CPP's 64 seats in the 122-member

Assembly will likely see its will prevail.

If the NEC is not reformed,

said political observer Dr Lao Mong Hay, then it will doubtless remain

partisan.

"The proposed amendments [by Funcinpec] have gone a long way to

meeting the standards to ensure free and fair elections," said Mong Hay.

"However the CPP can get its way [in the Assembly] if it wishes. Funcinpec

cannot."

Mong Hay warned that an unreconstructed NEC would result in more

of the same problems seen in the February commune elections.

"Furthermore

the CPP seems like it will be in [even more of] a majority position as Funcinpec

is in disarray and the SRP lacks resources and is disunited. So it will be not

so rosy," he said.

Funcinpec's Monh Saphan, who chairs the legislative

commission, said he expected his party's draft would come before the Assembly in

the current session that ends in August. Any changes to the NEC must be passed

no less than nine months before the general election.

A Funcinpec press

release dated June 13 stated that the party wanted only "to ensure the NEC is a

fair and balanced institution that can secure independence and neutrality in its

operation and in conducting the general election in 2003".

A key element

of that is to ensure independence in the composition of NEC members. Funcinpec

proposed that each of the three parties represented in parliament be allocated

two members on the board. The NEC currently has 11 members, seven appointed by

the CPP.

The party also wants to see reforms at the provincial and local

level bodies that report to the NEC, the so-called PECs and CECs. Another change

would see voter registration simplified, with lists of eligible voters posted in

each commune three months before election day.

Funcinpec also wants the

NEC to provide all political parties with equal access to media in the run-up to

the vote. The lack of equal access was a significant problem for both the

royalists and the SRP earlier this year.

Other measures, which were also

called for by election observers after the February election, include means to

combat vote- buying, threats and abuses, and forbidding parties from

distributing gifts while campaigning.

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