Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Offing CNRP puts NEC future in doubt

Offing CNRP puts NEC future in doubt

CPP lawmakers vote in favour of amendments allowing the redistribution of the opposition’s seats in the assembly on Monday.
CPP lawmakers vote in favour of amendments allowing the redistribution of the opposition’s seats in the assembly on Monday. Heng Chivoan

Offing CNRP puts NEC future in doubt

Though its reform was once heralded as a signature achievement of the so-called culture of dialogue that ended the Kingdom’s postelection political crisis in 2014, the future of the bipartisan National Election Committee (NEC) is in flux.

Thanks to the 2014 agreement between the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, the election body is now composed of four members chosen by the opposition and four by the ruling party, with one independent overseer. With the CNRP’s fate in the hands of the Supreme Court, major changes loom, though NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said he does not know if new members will be chosen early if the opposition party is dissolved.

Recent amendments to Cambodia’s election laws would strip the CNRP of all of its elected positions should the Supreme Court rule to dissolve the party, and would redistribute National Assembly seats to a handful of minor parties.

The four members of the NEC nominated by the opposition will not immediately be affected as they renounced party affiliation to join the independent body.

However, once new parties occupy the National Assembly, they will have the right to nominate their own members to the board. Puthea was unsure if that would occur before the end of the existing members’ five-year term.

He added that reports that CNRP-appointed members were considering resignation were “just rumours”.“All of us are still working together . . . and we hope they will continue to work together,” he said.

One CNRP appointee, Rong Chhun, said that such cooperation is impossible if the CNRP is disbanded.

“My stance is that if the CNRP is dissolved I will resign from the NEC,” he said yesterday. “I am working with a neutral body but . . . if there is only one side, how can we be a neutral arbitrator?”

Supreme Court action, and subsequent resignations, could introduce a predicament for the NEC.

“If one or two members walk away from the NEC, the NEC cannot function,” said Yoeurng Sotheara, legal expert at election monitor Comfrel.

Sotheara explained that the NEC members must be replaced by new nominees from a party within the National Assembly. The NEC, meanwhile, is responsible for confirming new members of the National Assembly but would not be able to do so unless its board was full.

“That could be a crisis to the NEC,” Sotheara said.

According to the law, if the “relevant political parties fail to select new members . . . the Permanent Committee of the National Assembly shall choose candidates to fill the vacant positions”. Under the law, the NEC must be a nine-member body.

The NEC in its current form was born out of a concession to the CNRP to make the body more neutral in exchange for an end to its year-long boycott of parliament. But Sebastian Strangio, author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, said a neutral NEC was always “a temporary concession”.

“Hun Sen never had any intention of . . . allowing the institution to operate in an independent or impartial way,” Strangio said.“The exact legal mechanism is besides the point . . . the CPP will establish control of the institution.”

Meanwhile, one day after the National Assembly passed four amendments to election laws allowing for the redistribution of opposition seats, the Senate yesterday fast tracked the changes.

“The Committee [on Legislation and Justice] will study the . . . law for no longer than five days before forwarding it to the permanent committee to examine and make a decision,” said Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang.

In a statement, the CNRP called the amendments a “serious violation of the Cambodian Constitution”.

“We call on the international community to think before cooperating with an illegitimate institution,” it said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon

  • Migrant workers set to return from Malaysia

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation confirmed on Thursday that 158 Cambodian students and migrant workers will fly home from Malaysia on Friday morning. This is the second flight to bring Cambodians home from Malaysia. A ministry notice said Malaysia Airlines Flight MH754 will

  • Cambodia to remain neutral on ASEAN-China territorial dispute

    Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn told an informal meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on Wednesday that Cambodia will stay neutral on the South China Sea. He appealed to all stakeholders to continue fostering a conducive environment that contributes to the end