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Nat'l Assembly set to pass election laws

Chheang Vun talks at the National Assembly
Chheang Vun talks yesterday at the National Assembly, where he said the NEC would begin the process of selecting new members next week. Heng Chivoan

Nat'l Assembly set to pass election laws

The National Assembly will push forward today on debating and passing two election-related laws with a view to enacting them and setting up a new National Election Committee by Khmer New Year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and an assembly spokesman said yesterday.

Speaking at a road inauguration in Banteay Meanchey province, the premier urged his ruling CPP and the opposition CNRP to expedite the passing of an amended election law and new NEC law today despite last-ditch efforts from election reform NGOs to have the most controversial provisions removed.

“They have to be out tomorrow, and members of the National Assembly will have to finish it at the meeting tomorrow,” Hun Sen said yesterday.

“Based on our plan, by April 13, the [new] National Election Committee will be established.”

Senior CPP lawmaker and National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun also said yesterday at a press conference that the assembly’s 13-member permanent committee – seven of which come from the CPP and six from the CNRP – aimed to begin the process of selecting the revamped NEC’s members next week.

The new NEC, which is being overhauled under a political deal signed last July between the two main parties, will consist of nine members, four chosen by each party and one jointly agreed between them.

After the new laws are enacted, prospective candidates will be able to apply to the assembly to join the new NEC.

“Based on our plan, on March 27, all 13 members of the National Assembly permanent Committee will start to review the final NEC candidates for 10 days, then invite representatives of both parties to talk about the composition,” Vun said.

He added that the new NEC members will be officially announced on April 13 before the New Year as a “gift” to the Cambodian people.

Both parties previously agreed on rights activist Pung Chhiv Kek as the consensus ninth candidate last year, but the triple national will face the hurdle of a new single-nationality restriction on NEC members.

Kek has repeatedly declined to comment until the laws have been passed.

Meanwhile, in a last-gasp attempt to have the highly controversial laws changed, the Electoral Reform Alliance coalition of NGOs yesterday held a press conference calling on both parties to scrap provisions that they said were unconstitutional, such as those that ban NGOs from “insulting” politicians and require them to be completely neutral.

But Vun claimed they represented a minority of civil society voices and were sponsored by foreign nations to destabilise Cambodia and undermine the CPP.

CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang meanwhile again insisted that the new laws would ensure a better election, while admitting they were not “100 per cent perfect”.

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