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Monitors cry foul on Assembly vote

Monitors cry foul on Assembly vote

Election monitoring agencies are protesting the May 30 National Assembly vote that

blocked the ascension of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) candidate Kuoy Bun Roeun to the National

Election Commission (NEC) and the retention of NEC candidates from BLDP and Molinaka

as a perversion of fair electoral process.

The three groups - Nicfec, Comfrel and Coffel - have threatened to lobby the donor

community to block funds for the February 3, 2002 elections as a result of the exclusion.

The monitoring coalition says the exclusion potentially politicizes the NEC's current

appointments of key electoral staff at the national, provincial and commune levels.

"Once the process is over, including or excluding the opposition from the NEC

board will not make any difference... the process has to be transparent and open

to the opposition scrutiny or participation at this stage to ensure its fairness,"

a joint statement from the three monitor groups stated.

With an eye to the June 11-13 CG meeting, the RGC made an attempt on May 30 to reorganize

the NEC. The end result, however, is widely viewed by observers as a lopsided victory

for the CPP.

SRP candidate Kuoy Bun Roeun lost a vote to endorse his NEC candidacy while representatives

of the BLDP and Molinaka parties, which do not hold National Assembly seats, were


Representatives for Comfrel described Prime Minister Hun Sen's explanation of the

National Assembly result as an articulation of democracy in action as unrealistic

in light of the CPP's tight control over its legislators.

"Were the members told what they were voting on was a legal necessity? They

had the right to scrutinize the qualifications of the candidate and reject him if

he was not suitable," said Panha Koul, Comfrel Director. "Instead, the

whole process turned out to be a political battle between the ruling and opposition


The root of the problem apparently lies in two contradictory elements of the 1997

election law under which the NEC was created.

While Article 12 of the 1997 election law stipulates that NEC members "...shall

be neutral and impartial in the implementation of their electoral duties," Article

13 that specifies the NEC's composition makes impartiality difficult to achieve by

failing to clarify the method of selection for non-political appointees from NGOs,

the Ministry of Interior and the "Khmer dignitary" categories.

"As a result, the two coalition partners divided among themselves the posts

in each category and nominated their own candidates, making the NEC full of those

representing the interests of the ruling coalition," a government source told

the Post.

"Naturally, it is not in their interest to disturb the status quo, particularly

since the commune elections are going to be used as a dress rehearsal for the 2003

general elections."

SRP leader Sam Rainsy told the Post his party was now considering boycotting the

NEC board by not fielding another candidate.