Election Groups Call for Access to Reform Talks

More than two months after the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP agreed to discuss sweeping reform to the election system, civil society groups working on electoral reform in the country called Tuesday for more transparency in talks between the parties as they hammer out the details of their July 22 deal.

Last week, lawmakers unanimously passed constitutional changes that will make the National Election Committee (NEC) an independently financed body with greater autonomy from the exe- cutive branch, the first step in a promised series of reforms.

Yet to be completed are a re- vision of the law on the election of members of the National Assembly and a new law on the operations of the NEC, the details of which are still being negotiated by working groups from the CPP and CNRP.

The Electoral Reform Alliance, a group of NGOs working to promote democracy in the country, called on both parties Tuesday to engage experts in the discussions and keep the public abreast of the state of their talks.

“The working groups have begun closed-door talks and there is no clear timetable,” Suon Yuthyia, a legal officer at the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said during a press conference Tuesday at the NGO’s Phnom Penh office.

“We want the working groups to be especially open and transparent in their decisions and discussions about making a draft law on the organization and functioning of the new NEC,” he said.

Mr. Yuthyia said the Reform Alliance had submitted a draft NEC law to the CPP and CNRP along with a request on September 12 for details about the negotiations, but had not received a reply from either party.

Yem Ponhearith, spokesman for the CNRP and a member of the party’s working group on electoral reform, said the opposition was in favor of including outside experts in the reform talks.

“But they have to contact the CPP directly because the discussion is not being done solely by our party,” he said.

Siek Bunhok, a CPP lawmaker and member of the ruling party’s working group, referred questions to Bin Chhin, the head of the CPP working group, who could not be reached.

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