Monitors Blast Draft National Election Rules

Election monitors and the SRP have slammed new draft rules for the upcoming national election, saying they do not address the problems experienced in previous polling days.

The draft regulations were distributed by the National Election Committee last week to NGOs and political parties. Those groups have until Feb 20 to make recommendations.

NEC President Im Suosdey claimed last week that controversial issues such as the distribution of voter information notices, equal media access, and the use of state funds for political campaigning had been comprehensively addressed this time.

But Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said this was not the case.

An inadequate complaints procedure, an over-complicated voter accreditation system, a lack of control over “gift-giving” as a means of vote buying, limited access by the opposition to TV and radio outlets and public spaces were just some of the issues the draft rules failed to address, he said.

“Although the environment is better now than previously, the election process itself is still far from international standard,” Koul Panha said.

Puthea Hang, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, was also critical of the lack of new rules, and called for an overhaul of the NEC.

Nicfec is also calling on the government to punish local officials who do not follow election rules, and for more women to be involved in the upper echelons of the NEC. Nicfec will suggest that a more objective means of identifying election problems be set up outside of the NEC, Puthea Hang said.

One of the most serious electoral abuses that has not been addressed, according to SRP lawmaker Kuoy Bun Roeun, is the government’s use of state means to increase the popularity of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.

He criticized Hun Sen for actively using the platform afforded to him by his position to campaign for his own party.

“The election laws look good in theory, but they need to be en­forced in practice,” Kuoy Bun Roeun said.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith defended Hun Sen, saying that the CPP generally campaigned in a cleaner fashion than their rivals.

“We are more dignified,” he said. “We do not curse any party, while they curse us every day.”

The NEC’s old draft regulations were adequate, Khieu Kan­harith said.

“We are ready to abide by these rules,” he said, adding that small problems with voting lists could be remedied.

He also said that voting facilities in some areas needed extending for the elections.

According to Im Suosdey, commune election councils will distribute voter information notices in May to 8,132,062 voters in advance of the July 27 election.

A further $1 million was needed to fund the election, which is estimated to cost $17 million in total this year, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said.

So far, the government has contributed $10 million toward the cost and Japan $2.9 million, he said, with more coming from other donor countries.


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