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NGOs lay out plans for election

Comfrel head Koul Panha speaks at a press conference on the upcoming elections yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Comfrel head Koul Panha speaks at a press conference on the upcoming elections yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

NGOs lay out plans for election

A coalition of watchdogs and other civil society groups yesterday announced their intention to form a “situation room” for the 2017 commune elections in order to monitor the voting process for irregularities.

The Electoral Reform Alliance (ERA), made up of 30 local and international groups, created a similar headquarters for the 2013 national election.

Koul Panha, head of the elections watchdog Comfrel, said the coalition will observe the voting itself and will also monitor campaigning, the independence of the National Election Committee (NEC) and the heavily criticised recent amendments to the Law on Political Parties, among other factors. “Whether the election is fair cannot be determined only on the election day, but other factors have to be looked at as well,” he said.

On May 20, 300 observers will begin monitoring the local campaigns. On election day, on June 4, they will be joined by 14,500 short-term observers who will assist in overseeing vote counting and result declaration.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea yesterday said he welcomed independent observers.

“Their observations help to improve the election process. All the civil society organisations that apply get the right to observe the voting stations,” he said.

Moeun Tola, of coalition member NGO Central, said the group is concerned by the ruling party’s recent attacks on the opposition. “In terms of political power and support we only see two parties. If the CNRP is not allowed to contest the election it won’t be free and fair,” he said.

Tola cited the government’s threat to dissolve parties through the new political party law, as well as the recent rejection of the legality of Kem Sokha’s election as opposition president, as risks to the election’s integrity.

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