The opposition is eyeing two leading civil society figures and deputy party leader Kem Sokha’s daughter to fill the three remaining slots the party holds on the nine-member National Election Committee, according to a high-level party source.
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Kuoy Bunroeun has already been confirmed to take up one spot on the committee after vacating his parliamentary seat on Monday to make way for party leader Sam Rainsy, who was barred from running during last year’s poll.
The NEC is being overhauled as part of a deal struck last week between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the CNRP that saw the opposition agree to end its long-standing parliamentary boycott.
Four members of the revamped election body will be appointed by each party and both sides have already agreed that Pung Chhiv Kek, president of human rights group Licadho, will be the ninth “consensus” member, though she laid out detailed conditions she wants fulfilled beforehand in an interview with the Post yesterday.
A senior CNRP official who requested anonymity said yesterday that the party was considering Koul Panha, director of elections watchdog Comfrel; Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC); and CNRP deputy public affairs head Kem Monovithya for the remaining three positions.
“It is 99 per cent [certain] that these four people will be the NEC members, because they possess clear skills in electoral affairs. No one would be able to order them to do what they wish, and the party has confidence in them,” the source said.
Monovithya, 32, also confirmed she was being considered as a candidate, but said “nothing has been decided yet”.
“The CNRP has asked me if I would be interested. I am still considering.”
Monovithya, who assumed her current position in April last year, has a master’s degree in economics from the US and worked for the World Bank in Washington before joining the CNRP, which was formed when her father’s Human Rights Party merged with the Sam Rainsy Party before the 2013 election.
From 2003 to 2009, she worked in Cambodia for various NGOs and the Human Rights Party.
Panha, of Comfrel, said he had not been formally asked by the CNRP to become an NEC member, but urged both parties to allow prospective candidates to apply through parliament’s standing committee – a move he would seriously consider.
Virak, of CLEC, could not be reached.
CNRP spokespeople declined to confirm any of the candidates, saying that the party was waiting for the drafting of constitutional amendments needed to revamp the NEC before finalising whom it would appoint.
Rainsy wrote to Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday, asking him to approve draft constitutional amendments that would see the CNRP swear in to parliament “this week or next week”.
With the ninth consensus member predicted to be the largest stumbling block between the parties after the deal, Kek’s speedy nomination by both parties earlier this week was greeted with relief by many who feared further deadlock.
But yesterday, she explained in detail her conditions before taking up the post, including parliamentary-style immunity for all nine NEC members.
“If you have this security, they can work with good conscience when they follow or implement the constitution and the laws, so that is very important. It’s like immunity in the parliament, if you want to . . . prosecute someone, you have to lift this immunity first,” she said.
Like parliamentary immunity, Kek added, she hoped lifting the immunity of NEC members would require the approval of at least two-thirds of parliament.
The new NEC should also provide security of tenure, so members do not work in fear of being removed, she said. Kek also wants the NEC to have the right to receive foreign funding, ideally through the UN, and a free hand in recruiting its own staff.
“The two parties didn’t reject my conditions, which means they accept my conditions . . . Maybe I need to make another statement to remind [them of] my conditions again.”
While the CNRP said yesterday that it accepted her proposals, Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP lawmaker, remained wary of Kek’s requests.
“This is the signal of a problem,” he said. “After [being] a member of parliament for 34 years . . . I would like to say that the constitution stipulates only members of the senate and members of parliament have parliamentary immunity.”
But Yeap added that if CPP leaders fully agree with Kek’s conditions, he will as well.