Communal Election Supporters Get Involved

Supporters of communal election law reform rallied Tuesday before meeting with National Assembly President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh and other assembly members to present their ideas on changing the draft law before upcoming elections.

The gathering, organized by the election monitor Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Com­frel), was designed to involve the public more in shaping the election law.

Elections for leadership positions in Cambodia’s more than 1,600 communes are now expected to take place in late 2001.

“The last time we met was only with the politicians and the people didn’t know what was going on,” said Comfrel director Thun Saray. “We need to show leaders that it’s not just NGO people who want change, but people from all other sectors as well.”

About 300 people gathered in the park across from the National Assembly before marching to the parliament building to present the committee’s formal request for changes to the draft law. Similar gatherings were originally scheduled to take place through the end of the week, but organizers were only granted permission to assemble Tuesday and Friday.

Organizers from the other two major election monitoring organizations, Coalition for Free and Fair Elections and Neutral and In­dependent Com­mittee for Free Fair Elections in Cambodia, re­fused to participate in the meeting.

Hang Puthea, executive director of Nicfec, cited a disagreement over elements of the gathering, such as the plan to march along the street and carry signs. One Coffel official interviewed Monday said his organization instead plans to meet with parliamentarians individually to discuss their proposed changes.

Thun Saray and Kol Pheng, adviser to Prince Ran­ariddh and secretary general for the National As­sembly, said the prince was receptive to the group’s ideas on election re­form, which in­clude overhauling the National Elec­tion Commission, increasing wo­men’s participation in the election process and changing the current proportional election system based on party affiliation to a representative one in which any individual is eligible to run.

Election monitors have already met once with the prince, as well as other senior government officials who said they agreed in principle with changing the draft law but offered no guarantee that lawmakers would do so.

The Council of Ministers is still waiting to vote on the draft communal electoral law.

The National Assembly has postponed a vote on the draft communal administrative law, until the electoral law reaches assembly members.



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