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Election delay feared by MPs

Election delay feared by MPs

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

election.

"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.

"If

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."

During

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

circumstances.

"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.

However, he

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

people's representatives.

"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.

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