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No progress on NEC reform

No progress on NEC reform

A workshop held to debate reform of the National Election Committee July 2 ran into

problems after the ruling Cambodian People's Party representative proposed that none

of the political parties be represented on the body.

Instead, the CPP's Ok Kimhan said his party's draft bill would see a reformed NEC

with five members, rather than the current 11, most of whom were appointed by the

CPP.

"The political parties accepted the result of the local elections [held February

2002], which means the electoral law was acceptable, although it is not 100 percent

perfect," said Kimhan. "The law should be reformed, but we should not change

everything about it."

Kimhan said under the CPP's proposal, the five would be drawn from dignitaries, although

he did not elaborate on how they would be chosen or who would be eligible.

The royalist Funcinpec, on the other hand, had proposed each of the three parties

in the National Assembly have two members on a six member NEC. Kimhan drew on the

recent World Cup for an analogy.

"We are like soccer players, but at the same time we want to work as referees?

How can we find transparency and justice that way?" he asked, adding that Funcinpec's

proposal would require a new NEC every time a new party was represented in the Assembly.

Reform of the NEC, which oversees the country's elections, is widely regarded by

donors, civil society and some politicians as vital for transparent elections. A

general election has been scheduled for July 27, 2003, and all changes to the NEC

must be completed no less than nine months before that date.

Funcinpec's Monh Saphan, who chairs the legislative commission of the National Assembly,

said the different positions between the CPP and Funcinpec was a problem that could

only be resolved if the two leaders met to discuss it. He said the CPP was showing

no willingness to reform the NEC.

Kassie Neou, current vice-president of the NEC, agreed the body needed reform and

new membership. He said the commune elections cost the government $8 million in staff

salaries and for the registration of voters. He felt that was too expensive.

The CPP celebrated the 51st anniversary of its founding June 28 and called for

the coalition between itself and Funcinpec to continue after next year's general

election.

"It is in this spirit that the CPP continues to strengthen its close cooperation

with Funcinpec," party president Chea Sim told attendant diplomats and thousands

of party faithful. "That will ensure the stability of our nation and the realization

of the Royal Government's ongoing political platform."

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