Applicants for New NEC Put Cases Forward

Applicants for the new bipartisan National Election Committee (NEC) include a ruling party lawmaker, four current members of the NEC, an outspoken union leader and the chief adviser to deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha, according to a list released by the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The National Assembly will convene a plenary session on Monday to select the nine members of the new election body, whose creation was central to the deal that ended the CNRP’s postelection parliamentary boycott last year.

Late last month, parliament put out a call for applicants who have 10 years of relevant work experience and a university degree.

Four candidates on the new NEC are to be selected by each party, with the final tie-breaking position to be occupied by Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

Mr. Puthea has said he intends to encourage electoral reforms ignored by the CPP and CNRP over the past eight months, and other candidates among the 24 who have applied for the body also spoke of a need for further reform Tuesday.

CPP lawmaker Sik Bunhok, who was a ruling party negotiator during the drafting of the new election laws, said he applied for the NEC based on his past experience as a legal adviser to the old NEC between 1998 and 2001.

“If I were to be selected, I would try my best to work on elections to make sure there will be no crises of political deadlocks after the election,” he said. “Basically, I don’t wish for a high position at the NEC, but I’d like to see every party be satisfied with election results under the new NEC.”

Chuong Choungy, a lawyer for the opposition CNRP who was recently found guilty of aiding a prison break in a seemingly political case in Kandal province, said he hoped to join the new NEC to bring a strong opposition and legal voice to the table.

“If I were to be chosen as a member for the NEC for the opposition party—because I know the ruling CPP will not choose me among their four nominees—I will use my knowledge to challenge everything to make sure the election will be held freely and fairly,” Mr. Choungy said.

Four of the candidates are presently on the NEC—Mean Satik, Em Sopath, Som Chandyna and Mao Sophirith—the latter two appointed by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

Kuoy Bunroeun, a CNRP official who sat on the NEC briefly in the early 2000s for the SRP, has already been announced as a new NEC member for the opposition party.

Im Sousdey, a ruling party apparatchik who has headed the NEC since 2002, said he decided not to apply for the new election commission.

“I have worked almost 20 years, so it’s enough for me,” Mr. Sousdey said. “Let’s give a chance for the young generation to do this work. Since I am old now, I want a break.”

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said that in spite of his lack of election-related experience, he applied for a seat on the NEC because of his career defending human rights.

“I decided to apply for this post because I hope I can help find justice for the voters,” Mr. Chhun said. “Even though I do not work directly on elections, I indirectly follow all election work and have been leading a union demanding rights, so I am so confident I could do the NEC job.”

Muth Chantha, cabinet chief for Mr. Sokha, the deputy National Assembly president, said he submitted an application for the NEC because he believed his experience working for Untac and later the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute made him qualified.

“I could offer my knowledge, experience and skills to help ensure the free and fair elections in accordance with international standards of free and fair elections. I want to pay back my country, if I have the chance,” Mr. Chantha said.

Mr. Chantha denied he had discussed his candidacy with Mr. Sokha, whose support could land him the position.

“I don’t expect any favoritism or for my close connections to help me in any capacity, but I am confident in my knowledge, skills and expertise in election work,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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