Monitors, Gov’t to Meet on Commune Polls

Election monitors say they continue to be concerned about the possible increased influence of political parties in next year’s an­ticipated commune elections, pointing to an election draft law that allows for party—rather than independent—candidates on the election ballots.

During a two-day meeting beginning this morning, members of Cambodia’s three main monitoring organizations are expected to meet for the first time with Interior Ministry officials to discuss concerns about the draft legislation.

Monitors have called for the restructuring of the National Election Committee—asking that the 11-member body either be reduced in size or replaced with what they say is a more politically neutral committee.

While meeting organizers said Monday they will still discuss this point, it is the government’s proposal to go ahead with a seat allocation system similar to that used in the 1998 elections that is more troubling. With that system, monitors claim, the CPP’s narrow parliamentary victory widened.

NGOs are instead asking that, while parties still be allowed to field candidates in the commune elections, no party affiliations will be listed on the ballots—essentially representing each candidate as an independent.

“Without this, we are worried that people are going to vote for the parties again [rather than the most qualified candidate],” said Thun Saray, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

Both Thun Saray and Kek Gala­­bru, head of the watchdog group Neutral and Independent Committee for Free and Fair elec­tions in Cambodia, also said they want the role of their organizations broadened to allow them to lodge formal complaints about election day irregularities.

Interior official Sak Setha, who heads up a working group writing the elections law drafts, said Monday he is also participating in today’s meeting.

NGOs had previously complained they have received very little response to their recommendations from the government and remain worried that their input will be taken too late in the law-making process to adequately address their concerns.

 

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