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Hun Sen sets deadline for election reform talks

Election officials count votes in Prey Veng province in 2013
Election officials count votes in Prey Veng province in 2013 during the national election. Hun Sen announced yesterday that a meeting would be held by the end of the week to finalise election reform. Vireak Mai

Hun Sen sets deadline for election reform talks

Prime Minister Hun Sen set a firm two-day deadline for negotiators from his Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to finalise a new electoral reform law, a source of contention for months.

Speaking at an annual Ministry of Interior conference yesterday, the premier told the working group to finish their draft by the end of the month, noting that if they failed to do so, the old election law would remain in effect. He also offered his own suggestions for provisions of the new law, including one intended to ensure that the incidents like the opposition’s year-long boycott of parliament after the 2013 elections never happen again.

In the new law, he said, “it must be included that elected parliamentarians of any party who will not attend the meeting to convene [parliament] by the King within the 60 days after the election are considered as having abandoned their seats in the National Assembly”.

“All [parties] must not be afraid [of entering parliament], and if you are afraid, it means that you do not recognise the result of the election,” he added.

Hun Sen also spoke out on the neutrality of the police and armed forces, which he said must remain absolute, unless any party launched an attack against the government, in which case the armed forces would have to act.

“I would like to stress that the police and the military can be neutral before political parties, but if those individual political parties abuse a law, it would not be tolerated,” said Hun Sen. “If a political party attacked the Council of Ministers, then the armed forces would not be neutral, because the armed forces are a tool to protect the constitution.”

In an apparent final dig at deported activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, Hun Sen also told police to look out for ill-intentioned foreigners.

Kuoy Bunreoun, head of CNRP’s electoral reform working group, said the parties would commit to finishing their draft by Friday and submitting it to a top-level meeting between party leader Sam Rainsy and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, but added that the premier’s suggestions must first be vetted in terms of their constitutionality.

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