Amid resounding expressions of goodwill and cooperation, lawmakers yesterday approved the new National Election Committee’s nine members, with Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy calling the body a Khmer New Year “gift” for Cambodians.
Less than a month after passing legislation underpinning the new bipartisan committee, parliament voted overwhelmingly to back the candidates, with 113 lawmakers in favour, one against, two abstaining and one vote annulled.
Delivering speeches following the ballot, Hun Sen and Rainsy hailed the “historic” moment, saying the NEC would help end chronic post-election political instability and violence.
“If leaders of political parties at all levels know how to shake hands and how to [engage in] dialogue for peaceful resolutions, [then] Cambodia will have no disputes and will be peaceful,” Rainsy said.
Hun Sen – who took the opportunity to invite Rainsy to Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap next week – told the assembly: “Our obligation is finished and further work will depend on the NEC because it is an independent body and from now on we have to respect the NEC.”
The new committee – which the ruling CPP agreed to last July to get the opposition to end its parliamentary boycott – comprises four people chosen by each party and “neutral” ninth member Hang Puthea, head of election watchdog Nicfec.
The committee will be led by CPP lawmaker Sik Bun Hok, elected president, and Kuoy Bunroeun, head of the CNRP’s election reform working group, selected as deputy.
Former NEC members Em Sophat and Mean Satik, and retired Interior Ministry official Duch Son, joined Bun Hok as the CPP’s selections.
Along with Bunroeun, the CNRP chose Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association; Hing Thirith, a Supreme Court prosecutor; and retired civil servant Te Manirong.
Hun Sen and Rainsy emphasised that members would resign from their respective political parties to ensure neutrality.
After being signed off by King Norodom Sihamoni, the new NEC will be sworn in on Saturday before a formal handover ceremony at the Ministry of Interior on Monday, Hun Sen said.
Dr Markus Karbaum, an independent consultant specialising in Cambodian politics, said the milestone was “historic” but was just “the end of the beginning”.
“Cambodia has undertaken major steps to overcome the legacy of violence and utmost confrontation,” he said in an email.
“Both Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy have to persuade their followers to ensure an overall backing of their strategy . . . for the sake of the nation.”
Independent political analyst Ouk Serei Sopheak said the new power-sharing arrangement was better than the old CPP-dominated format, though it remained to be seen whether members could work through their political differences.
The committee’s first tests would be selecting a general secretary and deputy secretary, registering voter lists and organising of the body’s representatives at local levels, he said.