Alan Doss, executive director of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s eponymous foundation, met with officials from the CPP, CNRP and National Election Committee (NEC) on Monday as the first step in the body’s efforts to help election reform here.
The Kofi Annan Foundation in 2013 launched its Electoral Integrity Initiative to provide expertise to countries to help them run more legitimate elections, and the NEC said in a statement on Thursday that it had reached out and asked for its support.
“I just briefed the CNRP on that work, as I did earlier with the CPP and the National Election Commission,” Mr. Doss said after meeting on Monday with the CNRP at its headquarters in Phnom Penh. “So that has been the purpose of this short trip.”
“We are not trying to sell ourselves or push anything, just to explain the work of the foundation and particularly the efforts in this area of elections and electoral integrity.”
Mr. Doss would not comment on the imprisonment earlier this month of NEC deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya, a former human rights worker, and the pending criminal trial against NEC member Rong Chhun, a CNRP appointee to the now-bipartisan election body, which was long dominated by the CPP.
Speaking at a press conference after meeting with Mr. Doss, opposition party spokesman Yim Sovann said the visit came at an ideal time.
“We can see that the political situation right now has difficulties—there was a deputy secretary-general of the NEC who has been charged, and now another member of the NEC was also charged and awaiting trial, and we see that this impacts the political situation,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, who led the ruling party in its meeting with Mr. Doss, said his delegation had asked for help from the foundation to train Cambodian election officials.
“In 2013, we agreed with the opposition party to reform the NEC, and we think the elections in the future will be free and fair,” Mr. Eysan said, explaining that the foundation could help with those reforms.
“We welcome his trip to Cambodia. We thank the U.N. that organized the elections in 1993, which was led at that time by Kofi Annan.”
The visit from Mr. Doss came exactly 23 years after those U.N.-sponsored elections began.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said the election organization would start holding regular meetings with media, politicians and civil society to discuss concerns about the NEC’s work as the 2017 commune elections and 2018 national election approach.
Election monitors have started to criticize the new NEC, noting that there have been four delays to a plan to rebuild the voter list, with work now slated to begin in September. Commune elections are due to be held in mid-2017.
The first meeting would be held next month, Mr. Puthea said, adding that his previous experience as head of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections had driven the idea.
“As I used to be an NGO leader who criticized the NEC’s work, and now I am a member of the NEC. I understand clearly what an NGO’s work is and what the NEC’s work is—and I know that they both can work together for the benefit of the election,” he said.