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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM cheers Senate election process

PM cheers Senate election process

PM cheers Senate election process

pm.jpg
pm.jpg

After casting his vote in Takmao, Kandal province, on January 22, Prime Minister

Hun Sen of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) said the democratic process

is moving forward in Cambodia.

Prime Minister Hun Sen exits the voting center at Takmao in Kandal province on January 22 after casting his vote in the Senate elections. According to initial results, the CPP won 45 of the total 61 seats, Funcinpec won ten, and the Sam Rainsy Party two.

Local election monitoring NGOs, however,

boycotted the vote and claimed that it doesn't reflect good governance,

decentralization, or the will of Cambodian people.

"I think that this

Senate election has just shown that the government has respected the

Constitution, but the role of the Senate is meaningless," said Koul Panha,

executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia

(Comfrel).

"The Senate is needed to make reforms, to have an important

role in promoting democracy and good governance, and to provide checks and

balances."

Panha said that the establishment of the Senate was merely

the result of political conflict following the national elections in 1998. It

was formed as a way to ease tensions by sharing power and function among the

parties' members who had no seat in the government or the National

Assembly.

"We saw that the function of senators stated in the

Constitution was not important and not clear," said Panha.

The

Constitution states that the role of the Senate is to examine and give opinion

on draft laws and proposed bills which have already been adopted by the National

Assembly. It also comments on various issues submitted by the NA.

If the

Senate gives approval or no opinion within a specified time period, the laws

which were already adopted by the NA will then be promulgated.

If the

Senate requests revision of a draft law or proposed bill, the NA will

immediately consider it for a second time. The NA will consider and decide only

on any provisions or points that the Senate requests to be changed, by

abrogating the whole text or retaining some of its parts.

If the Senate

rejects a draft law or proposed bill by nullifying it, the NA cannot consider it

for a second time for one month. This period will be reduced to only 15 days if

it is to consider matters concerning the national budget or finance, and to only

four days if it is deemed urgent.

Oum Sarith, (CPP) Secretary General of

the Senate, told the Post on January 26 that some of the critical NGOs have

never understood the function of the Senate.

He said that the Senate was

elected by the members of the Commune Councils and is therefore representative

of those councils.

"For me this Senate election is making history. It

shows we have reached international standards of democracy. We have had an

important role in local development and in promoting decentralization," Sarith

said.

He said that among 67 Senates in the world, 23 have a system of

non-universal election.

Hun Sen told reporters, "In my opinion, an

election can be done which doesn't depend on [international] financial and

technical support, but it does depend on the real political will of leaders."

Funcinpec has lost seats in these first Senate elections. Party

President Prince Norodom Ranariddh has appealed to Hun Sen to respect the

political agreement that has been made among the two parties about power sharing

in the Senate, he told reporters at the Olympic Stadium on January

24.

The National Election Committee will announce the primary results of

the Senate elections on January 28 if there are no complaints from the four

political parties, Tep Nytha, Secretary General of the NEC told the

Post.

"Until now we haven't received any complaints from the four

political parties," Nytha said.

He said the Cambodian People's Party

(CPP), Funcinpec, Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Khmer Democracy Party (KDP) will

still have 72 hours to file any complaints before an official announcement on

February 26.

In the unofficial primary results, announced by the NEC on

January 22, the CPP won 7,854 votes, Funcinpec 2,320 and Sam Rainsy Party

1,165.

The seats of the Senate have not been allocated yet, but results

so far suggest that CPP will get 45 of the total 61 seats in the new term of

Senate, Funcinpec ten seats, and SRP only two.

The NEC and Hun Sen said

the Senate election was free and fair.

But on condition of anonymity, an

SRP commune council member told the Post on January 25 that he was promised

$4,500 if he voted for Funcinpec in the Senate elections. As a further bribe,

the party promised to list him as the first candidate for commune chief in the

commune elections, scheduled for 2007.

Keo Remy, a member of the

parliamentary of SRP, told the Post on January 25 that the reduced number of SRP

seats in the new Senate was because of vote buying, the political pressure

against opposition leader Sam Rainsy and the jailing of former lawmaker Cheam

Channy.

"I do not blame those who buy and sell votes, but I worry that

corruption has remained widespread in the coalition government [CPP and

Funcinpec]," Remy said.

Ven Sinuon, a Senate candidate for the SRP and a

commune councillor in Teak Laok I, Phnom Penh, told the Post he was disappointed

with many members of the SRP who were not honest to the party.

"I think

the result of the election was an important political message to the party to

reform or do a better job," Sinuon said. "The result will affect the feeling of

SRP supporters in future elections, especially supporters in the

provinces."

In the last Senate, allocated by the previous proportional

quota power sharing, the CPP held 31 seats, Funcipec 21 and SRP seven. Two more

were appointed by the King.

The 61 senators have a six-year

term.

Sarith said a senator is paid four million riel a month (about

$970). The Senate has 280 staff.

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