The National Election Committee (NEC) plans to request a budget package of between $50 to $60 million from the government to prepare for the national election next year and then the Senate election the year after that, according to NEC spokesman Som Sorida.

Sorida told The Post on June 27 that the NEC secretariat will hold a meeting on the morning of June 28 to discuss the budget proposal. The proposal will then be reviewed and approved by all nine committee members before it is submitted to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

He said that after the ministry gives its approval, the proposal will then be submitted to the National Assembly for ratification. He said the amount being requested is similar to what was spent on the June 5 Commune Council Election.

The NEC intends to use the funds on election registration drives, reviewing voter names on the voter list, necessary materials and tools required to run the elections and also to cover the administrative costs for the NEC’s operations.

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), said that he was not sure what such a large budget would be spent on specifically without knowing all of the details, but if the budget is used for the purposes they outline such as preparation of the voter list, office supplies at election stations and paying the salaries of NEC contract workers, then there is no reason to oppose it.

Candlelight Party’s vice-president Thach Setha said it seemed to be too early to be preparing the budget for the 2023 national election. Contrary to the NEC’s statements and those of some election observers, he continues to allege that there were irregularities with the last election that have not been addressed.

“These are government funds and the political parties should be called in for consultation on this matter before any budget requests are made,” he said. “The NEC is the referee for the elections but $50 or $60 million to carry out that job seems like a lot of money and we should all be trying to waste less given the economic situation.”

Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), said the NEC has probably learned from the previous elections – such as the June 5 commune council elections – exactly how much money they will need to do their jobs and people should not second guess them as matters like election costs are well within their area of expertise.

However, he said the budget request by the NEC for the elections is solely the responsibility of the committee and has nothing at all to do with individual political parties.

“If a consultation meeting is organised, it must be attended by all 45 registered parties, but we don’t know how many of those parties will even field candidates in the next election. If Setha wants all of the parties in attendance at every NEC budget meeting, I just don’t see how that could possibly improve anything,” Eysan said.