The National Democratic Institute on Wednesday presented a draft code of conduct for national election campaigns to be reviewed by monitors and competing political parties, in hopes they will respond with their own recommendations.
“We prefer that a code of conduct come from the parties up to the [National] Election Committee, rather than from the top down. It is easier then for the parties to feel responsible themselves for the code, to become its guarantors,” said Cedric Thornberry, a former senior UN official and contributing author of the draft.
Speaking to reporters at the Hotel Le Royal, Thornberry said the draft code was based on wide consultation and Cambodian law. He asked parties to come forward with further comment and, eventually, ratification.
“We have seen quite often that such codes have been found especially useful by countries emerging from conflicts from which there still remains deep division among the citizens,” Thornberry said.
NDI Program Manager Dominic Cardy said that once the code is finalized, the NDI will disseminate its content and the list of parties sworn to uphold it through broadcast and print media.
That way, she said, if a party violates campaign decorum, voters can pass judgment at the polls on July 27.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha, who was on hand at Wednesday’s news conference, said the NEC will cooperate with the NDI in finalizing the conduct code.
“It is useless for NDI to compose the code if there is no agreement with the NEC because the political parties will not sign on,” he said, adding that even if the NEC and registered parties adopted the code, his committee has no power to enforce it.
He went on to say that the code would serve merely as a guideline that mirrors already-established electoral laws, but that the NDI’s willingness to disseminate that information will help Cambodia achieve free and fair elections.