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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SRP and CPP ever more cosy

SRP and CPP ever more cosy

The climate of political compromise between the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP)

and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) continues to warm following a recent move

to balance representation in the National Election Committee (NEC).

Two SRP officials will be added to the NEC ahead of commune and national elections

scheduled for 2007 and 2008 respectively

"Although there is still a big gap in competing with the ruling party, the SRP

will win the election and step forward to hold power following 2008," Rainsy

told the Post

Currently, the five members of the NEC have officially resigned from their political

parties and been elected by the National Assembly. Three are former CPP members and

two are from junior coalition party Funicinpec.

According to Rainsy, the NEC will be increased to nine members; the CPP will hold

five seats and the SRP and Funcinpec two each.

Serei Kosal, senior Minister from Funcinpec, said a discussion of NEC membership

is on the agenda of the Council of Ministers meeting on April 21.

"It doesn't matter which political party they are from, the neutrality of the

NEC depends on the conscience of the members," Kosal said.

Rainsy said it was unfair to have only members of the two coalition parties on the

NEC and said this exclusion would lead to a lack of the checks and balances and negate

transparency.

"I have requested Prime Minister Hun Sen and he has agreed with me on the proposal

to reform the NEC," Rainsy said.

Some election monitoring NGOs have criticized the NEC's recruitment process and accused

the committee of not being transparent and for favoring the ruling party.

The NEC bears the responsibility of planning, organizing and managing free and fair

elections.

"I think there are no independent members of the NEC," said opposition

parliamentarian Keo Remmy. "The reshuffle will improve checks and balances within

the election process

Rainsy maintains that Hun Sen is committed to improving the transparency and effectiveness

of the government, and has agreed to several requests submitted by the SRP to amend

the Constitution and resolve land issues.

"We have a close relationship with the CPP based on the spirit of mutual respect

and the interest of the nation," Rainsy said. "But, it is not a defection

to the CPP. Our aim is to take over by winning the coming elections and to hold the

power."

Rainsy said the SRP will not dispense gifts to the poor to earn votes. He said the

SRP will also eliminate the culture of building schools, roads and irrigation to

curry favor for political purpose.

He said the SRP will focus on the fight against corruption and push for transparency

in financial management to promote national development.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC, told the Post on April 19 that the reform

of the NEC's composition is needed to amend Parliament's National Election Law.

"However, I think that the initiative to reform the NEC will not help to encourage

effective work. It will be difficult to get a quorum to make a decision when there

are more members and more ideas," Nytha said.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (COMFREL),

said the initiative for NEC reform would not be reflected by independence or neutrality,

nor would it ensure free and fair elections.

"I think that the stakeholders have considered the NEC as representing political

parties that won seats in the National Assembly - this does not represent a neutrality

for all," Panha said.

He said in the current political system in Cambodia all institutions of the government

have remained under the influence of political party leaders and therefore individual

party members are not independent.

Sam Rithy Duonng Hak, chief of Cabinet for the SRP, said the assessment made by the

party to target between 50 and 62 seats in the National Assembly after 2008 was based

on optimism about the young generation. He added that the crisis in Funcinpec's leadership

would encourage eligible voters to change their votes.

"Our political party will [overtake] Funcinpec when the royalists fail to carry

out their original political platform such as the fight against corruption, creating

jobs for people and illegal immigration," Hak said. "Since Funcinpec formed

its coalition with the CPP, there has still been widespread corruption and nepotism."

Nytha said that based on annual updates of voters lists following the 2003 national

election, the NEC has found an increase of roughly 200,000 eligible voters each year.

He said that in national elections 2008 there will 7.1 million eligible voters.

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