Election Law May Damage Small Parties

An election monitoring group strongly criticized changes in the election law on Thursday, saying that some of the amendments to the legislation will prohibit small parties from fronting candidates.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections cited concerns over the recent change in the election law that increases the amount of money a political party must deposit to the National Treasury for valid candidacy from 10 million riel (about $2,500) to 15 million riel (about $3,750).

The National Treasury returns the deposit to the party if the party receives at least 3 percent of the valid votes or the votes needed to win one seat in the national elections.

Included in the election law amendments, passed by the National Assembly on Aug 21, is also a measure shortening the time for candidate registration from 30 days to 20 days.

“Poor political parties will have a tough time getting this much money for the deposit,” said Com­frel Director Koul Panha. “They say these reforms are in place to increase the quality of the candidates and political parties, but I think it is to reduce the number of political parties which can participate in the elections.”

While many of the large political parties have enough funds to easily make the deposit for the upcoming general elections, smaller parties may not be able to afford the increase, and will not be able to participate in the ballot, scheduled for July 27, he said.

But one international election expert disagreed, saying that the changes will only increase the security of candidates and the democratic process.

Having too long a time between the candidate registration and the election “creates tension” in the country, and could lead to intimidation and violence against people who are publicly known to be official candidates, said the expert, who asked not to be named.

The expert added that the in­crease in the deposit will cut down on the number of candidates who run only to get publicity or for commercial purposes.

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