Commune Polls on Schedule

International donors have not yet pledged millions and a law still needs to be debated and adopted, but plans to hold commune elections before the end of the year are still on schedule, a senior official said Wednesday.

“The plan is for the commune elections to begin in the last quarter of 1999,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said, re­iterating the timetable put forward last month by Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.

The draft law for commune elections is expected to be sent to the National Assembly before the end of March, Khieu Sopheak said.

The Interior Ministry opened a three-day meeting Wednesday to accelerate planning for the election of chiefs for each of the nation’s 1,632 communes.

Interior Secretary of State Prum Sokha said the ministry has decided to appoint commune secretaries before the election to help coordinate the vote.

“The commune secretaries have to be neutral and work independently,” Prum Sokha said Wednesday.

The commune secretaries would be appointed by the In­terior Ministry, separate from commune election commissions appointed by the National Elec­tion Committee.

Prum Sokha said the commune secretaries will come from within the communes, and not be outsiders brought in from Phnom Penh or elsewhere. The secretaries’ duties will go beyond the elections, and they will re­main in their positions beyond the five-year term of the elected commune chief, he added.

“The secretary will be able to maintain the documents for the next commune chief after the first five-year term is completed,” Prum Sokha said.

Khieu Sopheak said Interior Ministry and NEC advisers are revising the draft law for the commune elections.

The government is seeking some $20 million to pay for the polls. A proposal is to be presented to the international community later this month in Tokyo, Khieu Sopheak said.

Participating in this week’s meeting are representatives from nine provinces, UN organizations and the NEC.



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