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Opposition, NEC talk over election concerns

Opposition, NEC talk over election concerns

The National Election Committee sat down with representatives of the opposition and the ruling party yesterday to discuss the latest batch of recommendations by civil society and the opposition for improving procedure in the upcoming national elections.

Koul Panha, executive director of the free-election NGO COMFREL, told the press after yesterday’s meeting only two of 16 points — including placing more opposition members on provincial and commune election committees and allowing the opposition to campaign in public markets — had been addressed, but talks would continue on the wish list of reforms intended to bolster the neutrality of the NEC.

“The participation of [opposition] parties during recruitment and monitoring of the selection of officials for the [provincial and commune election committees] would help to reduce partisanship, such as members in one family [the CPP] filling the local election bodies,” Panha said, noting that the reforms would increase confidence in the institution.

COMFREL’s recommendations also include calls for the NEC to remove restrictions on eligibility to serve on the committees, making it easier for outsiders to apply, as well as perennial demands such as greater transparency on election day, and barring civil servants and the military from campaigning.

NEC secretary general Tep Nytha confirmed the content of the discussions but stressed that no agreement had been reached yet.

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said that even though the opposition’s attempts to change the NEC “from the top down” had proved unsuccessful, participating at the provincial and commune level would have a greater impact than simply acting as outside observers.

“The CPP has been using the election commission at local level to co-operate with CPP provincial leaders to cheat the system,” he said.

“By having a mixture between the parties that would be officially matriculated in the system instead of outside the system... [they] would be able to legally have some oversight and recognise what is not proper conduct.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at [email protected] and Stuart White at [email protected]

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