Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Draft Election Law gives Interior sole power

Draft Election Law gives Interior sole power

Draft Election Law gives Interior sole power

THE Ministry of Interior shall have virtually sole responsibility for organizing,

controlling and monitoring next year's scheduled commune elections, according to

a draft law.

The March 1996 draft - written by the ministry but yet to be approved by co-Ministers

Sar Kheng and You Hockry - provides for no independent electoral bodies.

It envisages a National Electoral Commission, headed by the Ministers, comprised

of representatives of the ministry and "relevant units" or "various

quarters", according to different English translations given the Post.

It does not directly provide for representatives of NGOs, political parties or independent

advisers.

The commission's duties will include coordinating the elections, training electoral

officers, resolving disputes and monitoring the ballot to ensure "freedom, fairness,

justice and democratic conditions."

The national commission shall appoint provincial/municipal electoral commissions

- which will in turn set up local electoral commission offices - as well as provincial/municipal

electoral monitoring commissions.

Local offices will be in charge of collecting and counting votes. The counting can

be witnessed by a representative of each candidate and by national and international

NGOs.

Existing commune chiefs - most of whom were appointed by the former communist regime

run by the predecessor to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) - will establish voter

lists and propose polling station sites.

The law - which will for the first time allow Cambodians to elect their chiefs in

1,500 rural communes and urban sangkats - is widely expected to be the model for

another law covering the 1998 national elections. In March, co-Minister of Interior

Sar Kheng said the ministry's program for the national elections would be similar

to the commune preparations.

The draft commune law says Khmer citizens - the definition of a Khmer citizen is

yet to be made in another law - over the age of 18 can vote, but must have lived

in their commune for at least a year.

Election candidates must be aged at least 25 and have lived in the same commune for

five years or more. There is no requirement that candidates, who will be elected

under a simple majority system, belong to a political party.

To be eligible to stand, candidates must submit a list of supporters totaling at

least 5 percent of their commune's voting population.

People barred from being candidates include public servants removed from their jobs

for disciplinary reasons in the past five years.

Candidates who became naturalized citizens less than 10 years ago, and those who

"reclaimed" their nationality less than five years ago, are also prohibited.

There is no definition of what reclaiming citizenship means or, for example, whether

the category would apply to Cambodians who fled the country during the Vietnamese

occupation.

Ministry of Interior officials have denied that the prohibitions are aimed at Funcinpec

politicians and others such as Sam Rainsy of the Khmer Nation Party, but several

NGO observers called for the clauses to be clarified or removed.

One foreign lawyer questioned the lack of independence in the election organization,

with the Ministry of Interior and existing commune officials dominating the process.

For instance, the law provides for complaints about people left off voter or candidate

lists to be made to commune or district officials, or the provincial electoral commissions.

If unresolved, the National Electoral Commission can rule on the complaints.

The law envisages a 10-day election campaign period, and calls for newspapers and

provincial radio and television stations to allocate equal coverage to candidates.

Anyone who uses coercion or "tricks" to solicits votes can go to jail for

two years, and people who commit crimes while campaigning can be charged under Cambodia's

criminal law.

One provision in the law touches on the thorny issue of whether Cambodian residents

of Vietnamese or other foreign ancestry will be deemed eligible to vote. It says

that the Ministry of Interior can directly appoint commune chiefs in communes where

three-fifths of the population do not have Khmer nationality.

A final draft of the law is expected to be approved by the Ministers next month,

before going to the Council of Ministers and eventually the National Assembly.

MOST VIEWED

  • Time to avert disastrous Covid situation: officials

    The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia is heading towards further large-scale community transmission as the total number of confirmed cases is nearing 61,000 and the death toll passed 900 on July 10, senior health officials warned. Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine expressed concern that the country was going

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided