C AMBODIA'S politicians should start thinking about the 1998 election now if they
want to make sure they're ready to hold it, say two foreign consultants in town
to run a seminar for members of parliament.
But several MPs told the
Post they're not sure there will be enough political stability to hold a vote in
three years' time.
Speaking after the three-day seminar (March 30-Apr
1), John Bosley, the former Speaker of the Canadian Parliament, recommended
Cambodia set up an electoral commission to develop the system for the next
"What I have heard expressed by some MPs is the UN will come
back and do it for them. Ha... wrong," Bosley said in an interview.
you believe it'll take three or four years [to hold the new election], the
pressure would be to start now. But, there is also a sense that anything in
Cambodia can be done as necessary at the last minute quite well."
the seminar, Bosley said, some MPs "quietly, quietly" expressed concerns about
whether or not they could have new election in three years, while some stressed
the need to first establish stability and trust between political parties,
especially Funcinpec and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
One MP, who
requested anonymity, expressed fear that the government may find an excuse to
create a situation to halt the new election.
The leaders could
then ask the King to grant an extension under Article 78 of the Constitution,
which allows the King to announce an extension of the legislature's term for one
more year, if an election cannot be held because of war or other specific
"They [the government] can set up a situation by all
means, even in reality it does not necessarily have to be. The main factor is
not the King," the MP said.
"[The new electoral system] will depend on
what the CPP want. They can have what they want. But for Funcinpec, they can not
have what they want."
Ahmad Yahya, a Funcinpec MP, said a decision on the
new electoral system must first come from the leadership of parties before the
National Assembly can proceed to prepare an electoral law.
said that some MPs showed a preference for having the next election held on
constituency basis so that they could better ensure their independent role as
"By doing so, MPs can represent the voice of
their constituency and also avoid saying that people did not vote for them, but
for parties that appoint them [as MPs] later," Yahya said.
Ek Sam Ol, a
CPP MP, said "I would like to keep the proportional representation system
because under a constituency system it's possible one party alone could win 100
percent of the seats in the Assembly."
While Bosley was reluctant to
suggest exactly what the new system might be, his colleague Peter Dobell,
president of the Parliamentary Center which organized the seminar, said he
"would suggest you give serious consideration to an electoral system that gives
some kind of representation at the constituency level.
"The advantage of
a constituency system is it makes certain that the government knows where there
are problems with ordinary people," he added.