Small parties left out

Supporters of the League of Democracy party attend a campaign event in Phnom Penh
Supporters of the League of Democracy party attend a campaign event in Phnom Penh during the elections in 2013. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Small parties left out

Minor political parties have come out swinging at the ruling and opposition political parties for overhauling the election system on a bi-party basis.

Two election-related laws that the National Assembly is expected to pass later this week have been negotiated for months solely by the CPP and CNRP, the only two parties that hold seats in the legislature.

But the Kingdom’s smaller political parties – six others, including the Funcinpec royalists, contested the 2013 election – will now have to play by the rules they have laid down.

These include shortening the campaign period to just four days of street rallies, allowing the disqualification of parties for the transgressions of individual members, banning parliamentary boycotts and limiting the role of NGOs.

“The [amended] election law is deplorable and does not include anything for the national interest. I do not know what we can do with this law,” League for Democracy Party president Khem Veasna said yesterday.

He said the two parties had clearly conspired to draft the laws – the other relates to a new National Election Committee (NEC) – in their own interests.

“All you [voters] already now know that if you still continue to vote for these two parties there will be no one who can help you,” Veasna said.

He continued that a provision banning civil society groups from “insulting” parties or candidates appeared nonsensical.

Khmer Anti-Poverty Party secretary-general Sar Sovannarith said it was concerning that the overhauled NEC would be largely presided over by members from the two main parties.

“This is not just and cannot be accepted,” he said.

“The two parties seem like a husband and wife who are just married and are sharing their property. Those who will benefit [from the new laws] are the two parties that have made these laws.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, insisted the laws would defend all Cambodians’ interests.

He also refuted the idea that the NEC would be politically partisan, pointing out that members will have to resign from their parties.

But CNRP spokesman Eng Chhay Eang recognised that the laws were not written to satisfy all contesting parties, even though he said they would guarantee a fair election.

“These two draft laws are not perfect for others needs,” he said.

“But for the political deal, the parties had to make concessions with each other.”

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