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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Meaningless' Senate election near

'Meaningless' Senate election near

The limited-suffrage Senate election will take place on January 22 after a low-key

campaign marked by the censoring of SRP television spots, and the repudiation of

the election as meaningless by NGO monitors.

Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee (NEC), told the Post

on January 10 that the electoral campaign began on December 31 and will end on January

20, two days before the election.

Nytha said the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) had condemned the NEC's cutting of material

from the party's television spots broadcast on TVK, but eventually the problem was

resolved and the SRP agreed to supply new material.

A letter was posted by the NEC to the SRP on January 4, saying the NEC would not

allow a television spot showing Sam Rainsy interviewing villagers along the border

between Cambodia and Vietnam in 2000 and 2001. The spot also featured retired King

Norodom Sihanouk sending out a message about "unrest in society."

"We have the right to remove any broadcasting that's against the law, or will

cause the public confusion [about the government's policy] or will affect national

security," Nytha said. He said the campaign had taken place without intimidation

or violence.

Every day throughout the election campaign, the NEC allowed 15 minutes of broadcasting

to each of the four political parties: the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), Funcinpec,

SRP and Khmer Democratic Party (KDP) to air their political platforms.

Samrithy Doung Hak, chief of cabinet for SRP, said the party agreed with the NEC

to cut the spots the NEC regarded as objectionable. Hak said he agreed with Nytha

that the electoral campaign had been without intimidation and violence. But Kong

Korm, acting president of the SRP, wrote on January 4 that the party regretted the

NEC's decision to remove the spot. The ruling CPP has 31 seats in the current Senate,

Funcinpec has 21, and the SRP seven, with the remaining two appointed by the King.

Ten local NGOs that have monitored elections in the past have declined to monitor

the Senate election, dismissing it as meaningless. Some lesser-known NGOs have surfaced

to fill the vacuum.

The election on January 22 will not be by universal suffrage. Nytha said there were

11,862 voters registered for the election - all elected members of either Commune

Councils throughout the country or of the National Assembly.

The NEC has set up 33 polling stations in towns and provinces across the country

and has spent $450,000 organizing the election.

According to the Constitution promulgated in 1993 the Kingdom had a single-chamber

Parliament.

The Senate was created as an upper house by constitutional amendment in March 1999,

with the power to amend or veto legislation passed by the National Assembly. The

first Senate's 61 members were not elected; two were appointed by the King, two by

the National Assembly, and the rest by the political parties in proportion to their

seats in the lower chamber.

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