Japanese Delegation Arrives to Discuss Electoral System Reform

A Japanese delegation arrived in Cambodia on Monday for a five-day visit to assess the need for assistance in reforming the electoral system.

In a statement, the Japanese Embassy said the 10-member team is being headed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) deputy director general of industrial development and public policy, Senya Mori, and includes government officials and academics.

The delegation will meet with members of the CPP and CNRP, as well as foreign development partners and civil society groups, the statement says, “in order to study the current situation and to identify the needs for reforms so that necessary information will be obtained for the identification and formulation of possible Japanese assistance to Cambodian electoral reforms.”

The visit comes after Prime Minister Hun Sen extended an invitation for such assistance in November, the statement explains.

Laura Thornton, country director of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, which is also a member of the Electoral Reform Alliance (ERA), said she expected the group to have many questions.

“As far as the NDI is concerned, we will respond to whatever questions they have, but will reiterate the same reform recommendations that we have been making for some time,” she said.

“We would continue to reiterate the importance of reforming the National Election Committee, for it to be transparent and open. And we feel the voter registration process needs to be reformed.”

One of the first meetings on the agenda will be with the CNRP today.

Son Chhay, the CNRP’s chief whip, said he hopes that the visit will reignite negotiations with the CPP that stalled last month.

“We have a delegation from Japan…coming and they will meet with both members of the joint committee [on electoral reform], and that could resume activity of the joint committee and joint discussions,” Mr. Chhay said.

“I think the CPP wants to resume, too. We start by meeting [with the Japanese] separately, but we hope to meet together.”

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said he welcomed the assistance.

“As a rule, when we have knowledge, it’s easier for us to apply it in real life,” Mr. Nytha said. “The more we know, the better the work is. The Japanese are coming here in order to study the election system here and then they will help us reform it.”

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter and Phorn Bopha)

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