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EU election team sees ‘window of opportunity’

As the European Union considers future support for the Kingdom’s elections, a mission dispatched to Cambodia said yesterday that recent reforms have created a “window of opportunity” for greater democracy.

At a press conference, EU officials discussed the results of an “Election Follow-Up Mission”, which was held to assess current electoral reforms, and to see how previous concerns and recommendations had been addressed.

Mission head Silvio Gonzanto said he had been “encouraged by steps” taken towards reform, which include the creation of the new National Election Committee (NEC).

He said the trip had offered pointers “as to the practical and financial support we can provide” to the NEC, though, he added, decisions had not yet been reached on either.

“If we spend money, it is to ensure that the election and the election result reflect the will of the Cambodian people … otherwise, we would be wasting our money”.

The mission noted that there are “many challenges ahead”, including the creation of a new Secretariat, establishing local “independent electoral structures”, and the “critical issue” of creating a new and reliable voter database.

All steps, Gonzanto said, should be taken in a “transparent manner”.

As well as noting several concerns with the new Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly, the mission said it had discussed other proposed legislation – including the controversial NGO Law – on its visit.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with introducing some regulations for this sector,” Gonzanto said. But “it should not be to the detriment of freedom of association”.

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