Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Election reform committee first step, foes agree

Election reform committee first step, foes agree

Election reform committee first step, foes agree

The first round of formal talks between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, held yesterday at the Senate building, yielded an agreement to form a committee to negotiate a settlement to the ongoing political deadlock.

The two parties’ working groups signed the agreement following the two-and-a-half-hour meeting yesterday afternoon, pledging to form a group including both parties and civil society representatives tasked with creating a plan to reform the electoral system.

A statement issued after the meeting, signed by CNRP delegation head Son Chhay and CPP group head Prum Sokha, also says a national working group would be formed to implement the recommendations of the committee.

“Meanwhile, we must be open for participation from citizens in offering ideas for election reform through publict forums,” the statement reads.

Technical expertise and financial support should be provided by international development partners, it continues.

Both parties yesterday declined to comment on when the committee ultimately would be established, adding that the final decisions would be made by their party leaders after they meet later on in the process.

“The meeting between the working groups of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and Cambodian People’s Party [yesterday] was a success. We hope that [we] can solve the political problem, which is still unresolved,” CNRP party whip Son Chhay said yesterday.

He added that the release of the 21 detainees still held in Correctional Center 3 in Kampong Cham would be a gesture of good will, which could help speed up negotiations.

The CPP’s Sokha yesterday said that the release of the 21 was a matter for the courts, adding that it would take some time before the details of how to reform the electoral system could be ironed out.

“In my experience, election reform demands a [long] time. It is a problem that is not so simple. So we want to meet quickly,” he said.

Koul Panha, executive director of election monitoring organisation Comfrel, said that his organisation would join the committee to offer expertise on electoral reform if approached.

“We will be happy to join. [Comfrel] cannot be a permanent member or make the decisions, but we can join to give ideas in the committee,” he said.

“If they understand the value of our input, we would consider. We want to have a role in offering ideas to this committee.”

The announcement comes more than a month after slated negotiations were abandoned in early January after security forces killed at least four striking garment workers in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district.

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