Constitutional Council Asked to Annul Portions of Election Laws

One of the country’s foremost election rights advocates wrote to the Constitutional Council on Tuesday requesting that it annul two articles in the proposed new national election law that he says violate constitutional rights to participate in election campaigns.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, which is part of a coalition of NGOs called the Electoral Reform Alliance, has criticized the two new election laws at length since details began emerging last year.

But parliamentarians from the CPP and CNRP have ignored disapproval of the new laws and unanimously passed the bills last week. After being approved by the Senate on Monday, the laws now require only review by the Constitutional Council and assent by King Norodom Sihamoni for official passage into law.

“This morning we submitted our suggestions to the Constitutional Council to ask them to remove some articles that are really unconstitutional and violate the political right to participate in elections, and to freedom of expression,” Mr. Panha said Tuesday.

“We hope the Constitutional Council will show their credibility in interpreting this law, especially the National Assembly election law, and delete articles 84, 162 and 167,” he said.

Mr. Panha said Article 84 of the new election law, which prohibits NGO workers from “insulting” or showing “bias” toward parties in campaigns, violates Article 35 of the Constitution, which protects political participation.

Mr. Panha said other provisions that give election officials the power to retroactively disqualify parties from elections, even if they have won seats, could violate Article 34’s protection of people’s right to vote.

It is not clear when the Constitutional Council will review the new election laws, but officials from both the CPP and CNRP have said the two laws should be signed off on by King Sihamoni by the end of this month.

Neither the council’s president, Ek Sam Ol, nor its two spokesmen could be reached for comment.

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