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Council elections will lack democracy: NGOs

Council elections will lack democracy: NGOs

The National Election Committee yesterday announced a date for the election of district and city-provincial council members, a vote that will only be open to current commune council members.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha took the opportunity yesterday to outline the polling procedures for the May 18, 2014, vote, but observers dismissed the election as undemocratic, maintaining it violated the spirit of representative democracy, and was furthermore a waste of time given that the voting pool entirely comprises of people already affiliated with a party.

There are more than 300 city-provincial council members and 2,800 district council members in the current first mandate, said Nytha, but a precise number for the second mandate has not yet been set.

However, Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitor Comfrel, said restricting a vote to elected officials only works in societies in which the general population votes for specific candidates – in whom they place their trust – rather than simply voting for parties, as they do in Cambodia.

“[Other countries] use non-universal election systems too, but the voting is for individuals,” he said. “This means that [voters] are content with someone they vote for, even though that [person] is in a party. But when we use a non-universal system, and vote using the proportional system and vote for a party, it is meaningless.”

Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak maintained that in a strict party system like Cambodia’s commune council members will simply stick to party lines, making the actual poll pointless.

“I think it’s a waste of time and money,” he said. “You have parties voting for parties, basically, so if you do basic math, you can see how many parties will have how many seats.

“Unless there’s vote buying,” Virak added. “You have less numbers to buy than in the general population.”

Yem Ponharith, a spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said his party was preferring to focus on the still-disputed national election.

Cambodian People’s Party official Ork Kimhan declined to comment on observers’ criticisms of the vote’s structure.

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