Lawmakers Say Constitutional Change to Be Passed Next Week

The National Assembly will convene on October 1 to vote on an amendment to the Constitution that will make the National Election Committee (NEC) a constitutionally mandated and independent body, according to lawmakers from the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP.

The vote is the first step in a long list of reforms outlined in the July 22 agreement between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP President Sam Rainsy, who agreed to end the opposition’s 10-month boycott of the assembly in exchange for an overhaul of the electoral system and more powers for the opposition within parliament.

The National Assembly’s 13-member permanent committee met on Friday to set the agenda for next week’s plenary session, according to National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun, a

CPP lawmaker and head of the assembly’s foreign affairs commission.

“The third agenda item for the plenary session is to approve the amendment of the Constitution to make the National Election Committee a constitutional body,” said Mr. Vun.

Also on the agenda will be a draft 2015 budget for the National Assembly and an agreement on cultural cooperation between Cambodia and Russia, he added.

Mr. Vun said that the CPP’s 68 lawmakers, who hold a majority in the 123-seat parliament, would vote for the constitutional change, which will alter article 76 of the Constitution and add a new chapter pertaining to the country’s electoral commission.

“There is no reason not to support it,” Mr. Vun said.

“So we will vote [for it] because it is the spirit of the two parties to be united and work together for the country’s interest and to make people feel peace in their mind.”

During the last session of parliament, in which lawmakers voted for new assembly leadership, CPP lawmakers blocked two CNRP selections—senior lawmakers Mu Sochua and Yim Sovann—for commission chairs.

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith, who heads the assembly’s education commission, said that he was optimistic that the constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority approval, would not meet the same fate.

“I think there are no obstacles, as the two parties are implementing the spirit of the July 22 agreement for reform,” he said. “I think we will get a two-thirds vote from all of the members of the National Assembly.”

Also in the July agreement that ended the country’s political deadlock were promises to pass a new election law and overhaul the composition of the NEC, which is currently controlled by CPP loyalists.

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