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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NEC chief still firmly in place

Tep Nytha (centre), secretary general of the National Election Committee, talks to the media during a press conference last year in Phnom Penh.
Tep Nytha (centre), secretary general of the National Election Committee, talks to the media during a press conference last year in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

NEC chief still firmly in place

The National Election Committee has no plan to replace its secretary general, Tep Nytha, despite a pledge after the revamped body’s approval earlier this year to name someone new to the post within three months.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea, who in June said the body would reshuffle within three months and select a new official to run its secretariat, yesterday told the Post the bipartisan group had yet to discuss replacing Nytha, head administrator of the NEC’s former iteration, which was often criticised for being pro-ruling party.

“We will have [these talks] in the future; until now, the NEC has not had plans to discuss this,” Puthea said.

Puthea said the committee had been busy pushing reforms, including digitising voter lists, a trial for which has been pushed back to November following problems with funding.

A restructuring of the body, however, is currently being undertaken, following the approval of two sub-decrees last month, allowing it to form a new administration to help organise the 2017 and 2018 local and national elections, Puthea said.

He said the NEC’s 318 staff, including Nytha, would be reviewed to see whether they had any “problems” with following the new committee and Election Law, two of the main compromises exacted by the Cambodian National Rescue Party to end their boycott of parliament following the disputed 2013 elections.

“If any of our staff has done something that is not by the law, then the NEC will talk about this,” he said.

Nytha started as chief of cabinet for the NEC secretary general in 1998, before moving to his current role in 2002.

He was previously deputy director of propaganda and education for the Youth Association of Cambodia, the ruling party’s youth wing.

Yesterday, he declined to comment on his NEC tenure.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the CNRP, which has called for Nytha’s swift removal, said change was needed to restore trust in the NEC.

He said the party would consider how to press the issue when president Sam Rainsy returned from abroad.

Independent commentator Ou Virak said keeping Nytha in place appeared a power play by the CPP.

As the opposition is pushing for change, extending Nytha’s tenure could help pressure the CNRP into a more-agreeable candidate for the ruling party, he said.

“Time is on [the CPP’s] side,” he added.

Koul Panha, head of election watchdog Comfrel, said replacing Nytha would help usher in a stronger push for reform, particularly with access to government funds.

He said the current secretariat was stuck with “old practices” and weren’t pushing hard enough for budget autonomy, guaranteed by the new Election Law.

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