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Council greenlights controversial election laws changes

The Constitutional Council holds a meeting yesterday on amendments to election laws.
The Constitutional Council holds a meeting yesterday on amendments to election laws. Keo Ratana

Council greenlights controversial election laws changes

The Constitutional Council yesterday approved four sets of controversial amendments to Cambodia’s election laws, greenlighting changes that will pave the way for the main opposition party’s parliamentary seats to be redistributed in the event of its dissolution.

“We have checked whether those laws have followed the Constitution, and concluded that the meaning of those laws is based on the constitutional principle of multiparty democracy,” said Uth Chhorn, spokesman for the Council, during a media conference after the meeting.

The amendments, which have already passed the National Assembly and Senate, will reallocate the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s 55 National Assembly seats among minor parties, while allowing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to occupy all of their local-level elected seats.

The decision to bar the CPP from taking the National Assembly seats was made to preserve “multiparty democracy”, which is enshrined in the Constitution. The amendments will now be sent back to the National Assembly, before they must be signed into law by the king.

Chhorn added that the amendments were “made carefully” and are “purely based on the Constitution”.

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Yoeurng Sotheara, a legal expert at election monitor Comfrel, disagreed, saying the amendments “contrast with the Constitution”.

He pointed to Article 76, which says National Assembly members must be elected by a “direct” and “free and fair” election. “They must be representative of the voters, the citizens,” he said.

Even before the council approved the amendments, Sotheara was confident they would go through, explaining that the council simply rubberstamps what the government requests.

“We already know the result. One hundred percent the Constitutional Council will declare that it conforms with the Constitution,” he said yesterday before the approval was declared.

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CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua, who fled the country last month after threats of arrest, agreed that the laws violated Article 76, and said the Constitutional Council was under direct influence from the government.

The council is composed of nine members, with three each selected by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the Assembly and the King.

She added that members of the Council would “never dare to make any move that would jeopardise their positions”.

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