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Progress, but elections in Kingdom ‘fall short’

Progress, but elections in Kingdom ‘fall short’

120411_02

Cambodia is making progress with how it runs elections, but the country has a long way to go before ballots gain widespread approval, a European Union representative said yesterday.

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Speaking at an EU-sponsored workshop on human rights and democracy yesterday, Jean-Francois Cautain, head of the European Union delegation to Cambodia, said the Kingdom’s elections in 2008 were an example of progress being made.

“But they still fall short of key international standards,” he said.

NGO representatives involved in the Adhoc-organised event in the capital said independent monitoring of elections was lacking in Cambodia.

An independent body overseeing elections would be an important step to change, Kim Chhorn, senior programme coordinator for Comfrel, the Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said.

Comfrel is ready to deploy investigators to monitor June’s commune elections, he said, but more needs to be done.

“We suggest creating more independent institutions that [examine] the election process,” he said, adding that the National Election Committee had not yet become independent. “We urge the NEC to improve its process and to correct mistakes to improve elections . . . there are so many things wrong.”

Incomplete electoral rolls and a huge difference in funding for ruling party and non-ruling party advertising were examples, he said.

Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the government was still the only body that oversaw the intricacies of each election.
According to Keo Phally, head of the legal department at NEC, this is something that may not change soon.

“We don’t have any law in place allowing for the creation of a separate independent body,” he said. “We still have flaws in our process, but we are proud of the processes we have established since 1993.”

Guest speaker Sam Rith, managing editor of the Post, said the media played an important role in progress and democracy.

“Sometimes it is very difficult to get comment from officials of ruling parties to get an article balanced,” he said. “And sometimes it is hard to contact representatives of other parties, especially in rural areas.

“The NEC is  . . . available most of the time when journalists contact them.”

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