Monitors: Commune Election Law Flawed

Election monitors claiming that portions of the commune election law are ripe for abuse have urged the National Election Committee to take action at its meeting today.

In a statement Monday, the Neutral Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections took aim at provisions that require that candidates be “a Khmer national at birth” and “be able to read and write Khmer script.”

There are no guidelines on what those provisions mean, Nicfec Executive Director Hang Puthea said.

Without guidance from the government, local officials may “apply their own arbitrary standards to neutralize and make ineligible challengers at the local level,” US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said. The ambassador has lobbied NEC officials to clarify the provisions.

“Literacy tests have been used in countries all over the world as a political tool to weed out candidates,” said Eric Kessler, of the National Democratic Institute, a US-based NGO.

A legal adviser to the NEC said the committee’s legal department has drafted clarifying guidelines that may be discussed today. He declined to give details.

Another portion of the law may prove to be a thornier issue. It indicates that if one candidate is disqualified during the registration process, so would all the other candidates for that party in that commune.

Wiedemann said the provision was “obviously unfair” and “flies in the face of democracy.” He said he doubted parliament intended the provision.

But the NEC’s legal adviser said the law appeared to be clear, so it would take an act of the National Assembly or Prime Minister Hun Sen to change.

Nicfec also reported that in five provinces, local chiefs confiscated voters’ registration cards so they could be “counted,” suggesting that their votes would not be secret and that they should vote for the CPP. In other communes voters were forced to take oaths, the election monitor reported.

(Additional reporting by Ham Samnang)




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