Japanese Election Experts Meet With CPP, CNRP Officials

Making good on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge late last year to help Cambodia reform its electoral system, a panel of election experts from Japan met with CPP and CNRP officials Wednesday to present the findings of their recent study into the system.

Led by Japanese Ambassador Yuji Kumamaru, the team of election experts—whose help was pledged to Prime Minister Hun Sen during a visit by Mr. Abe in November—held a meeting with delegations from the CPP and CNRP early Wednesday morning before later meeting separately with both parties.

During the closed-door meetings, the Japanese delegation presented the findings of their May study into Cambodia’s election system, and began discussing how the team will help with reforms, Mr. Kumamaru said.

The Japanese ambassador said the meetings focused broadly on how the team would help resolve shortcomings in electoral processes and voter registration. But he was vague about what concrete assistance the team might provide.

“We will probably be sending our team when and where the need arises,” Mr. Kumamaru said after meeting with the CNRP.

“We are still at the rather preliminary stage of our working cooperation with the Cambodian side, but we are willing to render assistance for the benefit of making sure the next election is going to go very smooth and be a success,” he said.

“The next election has to be welcomed by the people at large. The new system has to restore confidence with the people so that the result can be respected by the people.”

CNRP official Kuoy Bunroeun, who led the opposition’s delegation, welcomed the Japanese team’s findings, which he said were in line with many of his party’s complaints about irregularities during the July 2013 election.

“The CNRP supports 100 percent the findings of the Japanese, because the result is no different from what the CNRP has documented about election irregularities,” he said.

Mr. Bunroeun said the CNRP is now intent on quickly finalizing a draft law for the new bipartisan election commission, which was the centerpiece of the July 22 deal between the two parties that ended the opposition’s 10-month boycott of parliament.

Talks over the draft law are presently stalled over the qualifications the election commission’s secretary-general should hold.

Once the issue is resolved, Mr. Bunroeun said, delegations from both parties will embark on a “study tour” to Japan to learn about how elections are prepared and run there.

“The CNRP will keep meeting and talking. If the CPP truly has goodwill in electoral reform, and in particular the Japanese survey group’s findings, we can proceed soon,” he said.

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Sak Setha, a member of the CPP’s delegation, declined to comment on his party’s meeting with the Japanese team.

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