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Parties identify sticking points

The ruling and opposition parties’ working groups on election reform yesterday said that four key disagreements remained between them two weeks ahead of the target deadline to finalise changes to the election law.

The disagreements centre on whether more seats should be added to the National Assembly, whether armed forces and court officials should be barred from election campaigning, whether NGOs should be allowed to freely comment during polls and on the duration of the election campaign, according to ruling party chief negotiator Bin Chhin and his opposition counterpart Kuoy Bunroeun.

“Besides these points, other issues [not agreed] are minor,” Chhin said, brushing away the opposition’s demand for equal TV and radio airtime by saying the parties could not “force” the Ministry of Information’s hand on the matter.

“On Monday, we will meet to finalise all those points and make a report to our top leaders,” he said.

The working groups have agreed that parties will only be able to hold street rallies for just four days of the election campaign, they said. The CPP wants to reduce the total campaign period from its current 30 days to 21 days, but the CNRP is pushing for 25 days.

Chhin said the CPP is continuing to push for a provision in the law that would ensure the “neutrality” of NGOs during voting, the ballot and the release of election results. Rights groups have expressed alarm at such a provision, saying it could be used to silence them.

Bunroeun said that while the opposition backs NGOs’ right to comment on election irregularities, “they can’t look down on political individuals or the parties”.

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