The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has reiterated its commitment to carry out electoral reforms ahead of the 2017 poll in an apparent bid to appease key demands of the opposition, civil society and the international community following July’s disputed election.
With rare frankness, the party says in a statement that in light of the “obvious situation” following the election and a meeting between the two parties on September 16, the party wished to “solemnly declare” its “commitment [to] upcoming election reforms” to national and international observers.
The statement, released on October 14 and obtained by the Post yesterday, earmarks the election law, the law on political parties and general “regulations and procedures of the election” as possible areas where amendments could be made.
It also proposes the passing of certain laws, including a draft law on political party budgets – the absence of which has long been regarded as an obstacle to campaign-finance transparency.
“An appropriate mechanism will be established to research and form the electoral reform framework in accordance with free democratic principles, fairness and justice,” the statement said.
Despite the continued boycott of 55 Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers from the assembly and the lack of any public sign of further party negotiations, the statement also says the CPP “firmly maintains its open position”.
Senior CPP lawmaker and de facto spokesman Cheam Yeap said yesterday that the party was waiting for the CNRP to join the National Assembly before reforms would be made.
“We have not reformed yet, but we will do it soon. And we are waiting to see whether the CNRP joins the National Assembly,” he said.
“Reform is a matter they have raised from the beginning, so we need to discuss to what extent they want reforms to be made.”
Although a key cornerstone of opposition and civil society demands has been the scrapping of the National Election Committee and the establishment of a new constitutionally mandated election body, the statement does not mention the NEC.
“We must make some reforms, whether to the NEC or to electoral regulations, and get approval from all,” Yeap said.
CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said yesterday, however, that faith should not be placed in the CPP’s “empty promises”.
“If the CPP is willing to reform and the international community believes this to be true, they cannot do this alone,” he said. “There must be a balance of power before there is reform, and this means that the CPP controls the government, while the CNRP controls the National Assembly.”
Koul Panha, executive director at election watchdog Comfrel, said yesterday that the parties must come to a joint political solution on any reforms and that NEC changes should be at the top of the discussion agenda.
“The NEC has not been trusted by the non-ruling parties. That’s the problem. They are not confident in the composition of the NEC and its performance,” he said.
“Equal say on NEC composition is very, very important for confidence-building.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH