There is little doubt that reform is needed at the National Election Committee, the
body that oversees Cambodia's elections, but there is uncertainty over how successful
the reforms proposed by Funcinpec, the government's coalition partner, will be.
Funcinpec's Keo Remy, who drafted the amendments to the law governing the NEC, felt
his changes would strengthen the body. Among his suggestions was a revised six-member
NEC board with two members from each of the three main parties. Seven of the 11 members
were effectively appointed by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
Observers from civil society felt appointing anyone with political affiliations was
missing the point.
"The new amendments will bring justice for all the political parties,"
Remy countered. "What we need is a middle point that is acceptable to all political
The NEC was criticized by observers after February's commune elections for being
partial towards the CPP. The proposed amendments will need to be approved by the
CPP-dominated National Assembly.
That, Remy admitted, could prove awkward. Approval would require a majority vote
in favor, and the CPP holds most of the Assembly's 122 seats. Funcinpec has 43 seats
and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) has 15. Funcinpec's amendments would therefore
require the support of at least some CPP parliamentarians.
"I have a 50 percent hope that our proposal will meet with success in the NA,"
said Remy. "I am hopeful that the donors and international community will support
these amendments and push it forward."
UK Ambassador Stephen Bridges told the Post April 25 that although it was possible
the issue would feature on the agenda of the donor group meeting, scheduled for June,
it "is certainly not on my agenda".
"The NEC needs to be reformed, helped and supported to help it make the transition
to become a truly independent commission," he said. "Whatever proposals
are put forward and adopted by the National Assembly are fine."
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said his party needed more time to review the NEC law
and the Funcinpec proposals before he could comment on whether or not it supported
"We also have proposals to amend the election law," he said, but would
not elaborate further.
Koy Bunroeun, the SRP's NEC representative, said amending the NEC law was key if
Cambodia wanted a genuine democracy and elections free from violence and intimidation.
In reality, though, any change could prove difficult.
"The Funcinpec proposal for these amendments is a good idea," said Bunroeun.
"But I think that it will be difficult to get this passed [through the National
Assembly]. Their demands are too steep."
The president of human rights group Licadho, Kek Galabru, said reform should result
in an entirely independent NEC such as exists in the Philippines.
"Elections are for the people throughout the country, not for only a few groups,"
said Galabru. "Elections have to be seen by Cambodians as free and fair, and
to achieve that the organizers have to be neutral."
"Members of the NEC should not be party members," said Galabru. "In
a population of 11 million we [should be able to] find five trustworthy people to
lead the NEC."
The National Assembly meets again May 12. Any reform of the NEC needs to be completed
eleven months before the next election, flagged for June 2003.
Other amendments in the Funcinpec proposal would reform the provincial and local
level election commissions. Amendment 3 removes from the NEC control of voter registration
and hands it to commune authorities.
Amendment 5 prohibits parties distributing gifts to prevent vote-buying. Amendment
6 ensures equal access by all parties to the media. Another requires the NEC, not
local police, to provide security at polling stations on election day to reduce fears