Both the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP have written to each other with widely differing opinions as to how a joint workshop on electoral reform, which is slated for Monday, should proceed.
The CNRP wants talks to focus on reform of the National Election Committee (NEC)—something it made clear in a letter to the CPP signed Thursday, a day after party leader Sam Rainsy said the CNRP would stage new demonstrations if the CPP doesn’t comply with demands for changes to NEC membership.
The CPP, however, does not want to discuss the NEC, and instead wants to look at the neutrality of non-governmental organizations.
In his letter to the CPP, CNRP chief whip and lawmaker-elect Son Chhay said “the CNRP thinks that the subject related to reforming the National Election Committee to be a constitutional institution and that appointments must be made by a two-thirds majority of National Assembly’s members is not something we can pass over and is characteristic as a priority for electoral reform.”
The letter also asks the joint-party Electoral Reform Commission “to examine the possibility of jointly organizing a workshop and opening it to participants that include national and international experts as well as civil societies’ collective inputs and recommendations on reforming the National Election Committee.”
In response to this, a letter penned Friday by Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin said the CPP wished only to focus on reform in terms of “voter registration, the voter list and enacting a law on political finances.”
Mr. Chhin added that the joint working group had already decided to “discuss” the NEC at some stage, and that the focus must now shift to “reforming the area of neutrality and integrity of civil societies in the election.”
Regarding Mr. Chhay’s request for a workshop open to national and international experts to discuss NEC reform, Mr. Chhin was noncommittal.
“Regarding the request for a jointly organized workshop, that’s a matter that the joint-party Electoral Reform Commission to decide, only if this commission can prepare an acceptable electoral framework for all,” said Mr. Chhin, who leads the CPP delegation on the commission.
In a Facebook post Thursday night, before he left the country for Australia, Mr. Rainsy accused the ruling party of ignoring key electoral reform, which had stalled the talks.
“Negotiations between the CPP and the CNRP on election reform are at a standstill because the CPP refuses to discuss any change to the composition of the NEC, which is central to the organization of any future election and which is currently under the ruling party’s control,” he said.