Activists Say Examine NEC Political Cash

Political activists Friday morning targeted political party finances and election campaign spending during a meeting with the National Election Committee on electoral process reform.

“Where is the political party’s money coming from and where is it spent—including for gifts?” asked Iv Borin, a program officer for women in politics with the NGO Women for Prosperity.

Seminar participants, including members from at least 20 political parties, said the NEC—the government’s election body—had to keep better track of political money in order to crack down on vote buying ahead of next year’s general election.

Some participants, including Iv Borin, accused the NEC of failing to track party money, and its use in currying favor with Cambodia’s power brokers.

“The granting of ‘Okhna’ (an honorary term given to heavy contributors to the government) is being sold for party income,” Iv Borin charged. “If we don’t check on [party money] we will face problems. But the NEC never does this.”

NEC officials said they could only forward the NGOs’ recommendations to the body’s board, rather than adopt them as policy.

“I could not comment on this matter. I will bring it to discuss with the [NEC] heads,” said NEC official Huoy Sophorn.

Despite a recent overhaul, the NEC continues to come under fire from critics claiming the body remains too tied to the ruling CPP to objectively administer the 2003 elections.

Most recently, the NEC has been faulted for its hiring of staff, both in Phnom Penh and in the provinces. Its detractors say the NEC has not opened the hiring process to the public, and has instead relied on select groups of cronies to fill its ranks.

NEC reform has been a rallying cry for some of Cambodia’s donors who say the body is the key to a legitimate election.

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