Commune Election Law Sent Back for Changes

A draft law for next year’s planned commune elections has been sent back to the Interior Min­istry for reworking, possibly delaying the already late polls, National Election Committee and Interior Ministry officials said last week.

No new target date has been set, NEC officials said.

Work has not begun on the changes that the Council of Min­isters has requested, a senior Interior Ministry official said.

The drafting committee is waiting for a new government to form and issue new “directives” on how to finish the draft law, he said.

Issues still to be worked out in the commune election legislation include whether voters should elect a single commune chief or a council of leaders, and how the elections would take place, the Interior official said.

Proposals have included conducting elections in some “pilot communes” before holding the commune elections nationwide and conducting the election region by region rather than for the whole country at one time, said Im Suosdey, secretary-general of the National Election Committee.

Commune elections originally had been scheduled for Decem­ber 1997, but by June of that year there was already talk of delaying them until after the national elections.

The factional fighting of July 5 and 6, 1997 cemented the delay in commune-level polls and shifted focus to the national elections that were held in July of this year.

The draft that now exists has several steps to go before it be­comes law.

Even after that, NEC officials last week said they would need at least six months to prepare for the elections.

NEC officials also said they cannot estimate how much the polls will cost until legislation is passed.

The main task facing the NEC is to rework the voter registration lists used in the July national elections, Im Suosdey said.

The national election registry cannot be used as it is because voters were not required to register in their home communes, Im Suosdey said.

A few weeks before national voter registration for the national elections was scheduled to begin, the electoral law was amended to allow people to register anywhere as long as they had proper identification and returned there to vote.

Earlier regulations had re­quired voters to register in the polling place assigned to their village or commune.

Commune elections are considered crucial to Cambodia’s political future.

They will be the first in dec­ades and will put seats that have been held by mostly CPP-ap­pointed officials up for grabs, analysts and diplomats said.

The results of the elections also will help pave the way for political parties interested in the country’s next parliamentary polls.

“The commune elections will lay down the foundation for the year 2003 elections,” said Kao Kim Horn, executive director for the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

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