As the 2023 national election approaches, The National Election Committee (NEC) has rolled out the rules and procedure for all relevant parties. The regulations were issued following consultation meetings with relevant parties, including representatives from political parties and election observation civil groups.

The directive consists of 438 pages, 10 chapters and nine annexations, and details the functioning and organisation of the parliamentary election which is scheduled for July 23.

The ten chapters cover a wide range of aspects of the election, from general provisions, the electoral system, the number of seats in the National Assembly, and mechanisms for the submission and resolution of complaints.

The nine annexations included ethics for election officials, political parties, candidates and political party agents at the election, ethics for election observers and media outlets, and seat distribution, among others.

Under the rules, the NEC bans all political parties and their

members from threatening, intimidating, or committing acts violence on voters, or inciting others to do so. It also bans direct or indirect insult to any candidates or supporters. Also banned are personal attacks on the character of any candidate of any political party.

“All political parties and their agents are banned from threatening, intimidating, persuading any individual to thumbprint and swear to vote for a particular party.

“Political parties and their agents are banned from providing money or gifts to any institution, organisation, or individual for the purpose of buying votes during election campaigns or the white day (the day before the election) and the election day” stated a section in Chapter 3.

All political parties and their members are banned from blocking election campaigns or voters, interrupting the election process, vote count, causing public disorder, or causing damage to ballot boxes.

During the election, only one political agent from each party will be permitted to access the election room, while reserved members can observe from outside and may replace the full-right members where necessary. They have right to process irregularities and file complaints if they witness such incidents personally.

No party member without authorization may demand access to an election office in addition to their authorized member.

The rules also ban political parties from using loud speakers which may overwhelm other parties during the election campaign. Destroying the billboards or leaflets of another party must also be avoided. Election campaign boards and banners must not be attached to the fence or buildings of state institutions.

“All political parties and their agents are banned from using vehicles with the license plates of the government, civil service, police or the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces to carry our campaign activities or transport voters to election stations,” stated the rules.

In 2022, several civil election observer groups made suggestions to the NEC, including the right to observe preparations for voter registration, the right to vote from abroad, and rules that say the doors or windows of polling stations must be open during the counting of ballots, among others.

NEC deputy secretary-general Som Sorida said the NEC had responded to those requests, although representatives from some civil groups said their requests were not been included in the new regulations.

“It seems that the NEC has chosen not to include several of our suggestions,” said Kim Chhorn, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL).