More than a year after commune elections were delayed, officials are still trying to figure out how such elections will occur.
But Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, also co-Minister of the Interior Ministry, told foreign donors at a meeting Friday that the elections will cost an estimated $20 million, money he hopes will come from the international community.
The Interior Ministry’s drafting committee has been working on the commune election draft law since the Council of Ministers sent it back last year for review. Sar Kheng said the Interior Ministry needs the government to decide how the elections will take place before the draft can be completed.
The Interior Ministry sent a letter to the National Election Committee last month asking for estimates on how much the election will cost. The estimate is needed before an important international donors’ meeting to be held in Japan next month, NEC spokesman Samraing Kamsan said Sunday. “The letter required the NEC to…hurry up the draft of the budget before the government goes to Tokyo,” Samraing Kamsan said.
The unresolved issues Sar Kheng brought up include whether officials in 1,600 communes will be elected at one time or at staggered intervals in regional groupings.
Election officials have said there is no election mechanism in place to conduct commune-level elections and that it would require fewer staff and be cheaper to conduct the elections in several intervals.
A source close to the drafting process said this week there is concern that if a commune secretary is appointed before the election, the appointee would be able to influence the election results, and also be in a position to reduce the importance of the elected official.
No new date for the commune election has been set. The local-level 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.
Officials did not know when the election draft law will be completed and when the draft will be ready for the National Assembly.
In November, NEC Secretary-General Im Suosdey said it would take at least six months for officials to prepare for elections.
A few weeks before voter registration for the national election last July, the law was amended to allow people to register anywhere if they had proper identification and returned there to vote.
Analysts have said the commune elections are important because they will put positions that have been held by CPP-appointed officials for several decades up for grabs, laying the foundation for national elections in 2003.
(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito)