Interior Ministry Amends NEC Draft Law

The Interior Ministry has amended the draft electoral law to cut by more than half the number of members on the National Election Committee—a move officials say will reduce the cost of next year’s national elections.

“We have spent a lot of money on this institution so now the government needs to [reduce] this useless expense,” one senior min­istry official said.

The current NEC has 11 members, but the amendment would reduce that number to five “dignitaries” chosen by the ministry and approved by the National As­sembly.

This proposal follows months of debate on how to overhaul the electoral body and mirrors a suggestion made by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Council of Ministers is ex­pected to discuss the amendment Friday before it goes to the As­sembly for a vote.

The ministry official said recommendations from Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party to include mem­bers from political parties were taken into account.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Tuesday his party would not accept the amendment because it gives the Interior Ministry too much control over the NEC’s makeup.

“If they want the NEC to be neutral, the candidates must be se­lected by all the parties’ agreement,” he said.

“If the Interior Ministry chooses, they will select only their own people,” he added.

The draft amendment is ex­pected to be discussed today by Interior Ministry, political party and UN officials.

The amendment is just one of four points addressed by the electoral bill, which also includes voter registration, ballot counting sites and seat allocation—one of 1998’s most divisive issues, according to Eric Kessler, resident representative with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

NEC member Prum Nhean Vichet said he expected next year’s elections to cost between $11 million and $13 million—a significant drop from the 1998 election price tag of $26 million.

(Additional reporting by David Kihara)

 

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