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Independence of NEC crucial, watchdogs say

Independence of NEC crucial, watchdogs say

Two prominent members of watchdog group the Electoral Reform Alliance have warned that members of a revamped National Election Committee will have to be placed under tight restrictions to ensure that they do not act in a politically partisan manner.

Ou Virak, chairman at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, and Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said yesterday that they were deeply pessimistic that a new NEC made up almost exclusively of members from both parties could be independent.

A law regulating the institution – which will be made up of four members from each party and one supposedly neutral candidate – is expected to be passed by March.

The parties continue to disagree on whether the government should have to sign off on its administrative staff.

“If the secretariat and budget are not independent, this institution cannot be independent,” Virak said.

He added that other issues, such as voter lists being prepared by politically partisan commune councils and not the NEC, appeared unlikely to change.

Puthea said that NEC members should face stiff penalties if they advance a political agenda on the committee.

“This NEC is formed by both political parties so the members will be biased to his or her party,” he said.

Both analysts, however, admitted that despite its faults, the new NEC would be better than the old one.

Prum Sokha and Kuoy Bunroeun, election reform negotiators from the CPP and CNRP respectively, yesterday argued that the forced resignations of NEC members from political parties and a ban on political activities for two years after their terms would help to ensure independence.

They asked watchdogs to reserve their judgments until the new body is in place.

But some party insiders have implied that “independence” was never truly a goal.

“This [4-4-1] formula is not to create an independent NEC. You cannot be so foolish to say someone that is being nominated by a political party is not under the influence of that party,” CNRP deputy public affairs head Kem Monovithya said last month.

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