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Lawmakers set to amend constitution, change NEC

The National Assembly will sit next month to amend the constitution and enshrine a revamped National Election Committee, opposition party officials said yesterday.

According to Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker and spokesman Yem Ponharith, working groups from the CNRP and ruling Cambodian People’s Party have finished debating exactly what will be added to the constitution.

“We have already finished the new constitutional draft [chapter], and the parliament will pass the amendment of the constitution in early October,” he explained.

Ponharith added that party working groups aimed to complete a new draft law governing the NEC by the end of the month.

The committee has long been labelled a politically partisan body by the CNRP and civil society watchdogs. A July 22 agreement between the two parties that ended nearly a year of political deadlock saw the CPP agree to its overhaul and to make it a constitutionally mandated institution.

“On September 29, we will finish the main points of the entire draft law. There remains a little [to finish] and we will let the leaders of both parties decide,” he said.

Changes to the election law, however, are only expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

Hang Puthea, executive di­rector of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, bemoaned the fact that cross-party talks over constitutional amendments and draft laws related to elections had been kept secret from civil society.

“The passing of all these laws is based on the agreement of the two parties, who are thinking of their own party’s interests,” he said.

“[It] has been a mystery, but at least reform is happening. It is better than there being no reform at all.”

Sik Bun Hok, a CPP lawmaker and working group member, declined to comment in detail but said that the NEC would be “independent and neutral” after legal changes were made.

National Assembly spokespeople could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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